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CUPE workers at U of T say: “UNITED WE WIN!”

For the first time at the University of Toronto, 7 Bargaining Units across 3 CUPE Locals representing over 8,000 workers are currently in a bargaining position! UofT depends on our collective labour, but our collective agreements do not reflect our value. For too long, we’ve seen how divide and conquer tactics allow the employer to treat Bargaining Units unequally, even though we face the same issues: unlivable wages, job insecurity, overwork, and hostile workplaces. No more!

Now, we are using our collective voice as library workers, postdocs, maintenance technicians, caretakers, teaching assistants, cafeteria workers, course instructors, and sport facility attendants (and more!) in CUPE Locals 1230, 3261, and 3902 to resist UofT’s tactics. Unlike our employer, who insists on confidentiality at the negotiating table, we believe the bargaining process should be transparent. That’s why we’ve created this joint newsletter to share our common priorities across Units and Locals for this bargaining year.

What’s at stake?

Across the 3 Locals, you and thousands of your coworkers have completed bargaining surveys that highlight the most pressing concerns and top priorities for your respective future Collective Agreements. Fair pay, unified bargaining, workplace dignity and respect, transparent hiring practices, and protections against overwork are among the most critical concerns.

In 2019, Bill 124 illegally capped annual wage increases for public sector workers at 1%. Although Bill 124 was struck down in 2022, it did significant damage to your livelihoods in just three years. Now, we must demand wage increases that reflect the skyrocketing cost of living. When your employer negotiates with Locals and Units separately, they can try to force us to accept what others have already settled for. With coordinated bargaining, we can send a strong collective message to our employer: we ALL deserve dignified wages and work conditions.

CUPE 3261

CUPE 3261 represents over one thousand service workers across UofT’s three campuses. We are cafeteria workers, utility drivers, campus mail workers, parking control officers, grounds workers, caretakers, maintenance workers, vet techs, recycling workers, hospitality workers and much more! 3 out of 7 Units in our Local are in a bargaining position: 1) Full-Time and Part-Time, 2) Casual, and 3) 89 Chestnut.

Alongside wage increases, we face significant issues with heavy workloads, unfair scheduling, workplace favouritism, and contracting out. That’s why we must build power together across our entire membership! After years of dividing us up and refusing to recognize our members’ shared interests, the employer has agreed to negotiate with all 3 Units in the same month! Our first round of dates are:

Tue Nov. 14 – FTPT
Wed Nov. 15 – Casual
Fri Nov. 17 – FTPT
Tue Nov. 21 – Casual
Wed Nov. 22 – FTPT
Tue Nov. 28 – 89 Chestnut

CUPE 1230

CUPE 1230 represents nearly 400 workers at University of Toronto Libraries (UTL) across 30+ departments. We have two collective agreements: one for Full-Time and Part-Time staff, and one for Student Casual staff. Both agreements expired on June 30, 2023.

We gave the employer our notice to bargain on Oct. 20 and emphasized our desire to bargain both agreements simultaneously. On the same day, our Executive and Negotiating Committees sent an open letter to Alex Brat, Director of UofT Labour Relations, to publicly articulate our unified bargaining approach. We will share Mr. Brat’s response when we receive it. We expect resistance, but we must stand strong to achieve our goals.

Our first dates at the table are:
Nov. 30 – FTPT
Dec. 6 – Student Casual

CUPE 3902

With over 6,000 members, Unit 1 represents teaching assistants, course instructors, lab assistants, invigilators, and more across the three campuses.

On Oct. 26, 2023, we sent our notice to bargain to theemployer. The following week on Nov. 2, our members voted unanimously to adopt our bargaining platform. Our platform revolves around four key themes: Pay & Benefits, Workload Standards & Job Security, Healthier & Safer Workplaces, and Inclusion & Anti-Oppression.

Unit 5 represents postdoctoral researchers at UofT. In Canada, professors are some of the highest-paid in the world, while postdocs are some of the lowest-paid, even though university research depends on us!

Since Oct. 3, 2023, the Unit 5 Bargaining Committee has met with the employer 3 times. So far, we’ve presented proposals on the following key problems: job security, overtime pay, teaching opportunities, research funds, training recognition and compensation, and increased pay. At our most recent day at the table, we proposed:

  • An increase to the minimum salary from $36,061 to $50,000 for 2023 (retroactive to Jan. 1, 2023), $52,500 for 2024, and $55,125 for 2025.
  • An across-the-board wage increase (for workers earning more than minimum) of 9% for 2023 (retroactive to Jan. 1, 2023), 4% for 2024, and 3% for 2025.

At the bargaining table, the university has told us that they consider postdoc work “mission critical.” Will they prove this by agreeing to our reasonable demands?

Unit 5’s next dates at the table are Nov. 16 and Nov. 23.

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