Student solidarity walkout. TOSIN MAIYEGUN/THE VARSITY

The legal dispute between CUPE 3902 and the University of Toronto has come to an end. CUPE 3902, which represents over 6,000 teaching assistants and other academic staff, has agreed to a final settlement.

The union has also withdrawn the grievance it filed with the Ontario Labour Relations Board. In a previous press release, the union accused the university of “bargaining in bad faith” during last year’s negotiations.

“The settlement is still not perfect and is not everything people went on strike for,” said Ryan Culpepper, chair of CUPE 3902. “But I am satisfied that the settlement is the best possible end to this legal dispute and for our members, given that U of T lied and bargained in bad faith.”

“The University and the union settled because they were able to resolve their differences and reach an agreement that’s in the best interests of both CUPE 3902 members and the broader university community,” said Erin Lemon, Executive Director of News & Media.

The details

The university will be putting an additional $1 million into the Graduate Students Bursary Fund (GSBF), on top of the three annual payments of $1.045 million that were already part of the collective bargaining agreement, which brings guaranteed minimum level of funding up from $15,000 to $17,000.

“It’s not new money,” explained Lemon, “but the anticipated surplus from another fund… which was also part of the agreement negotiated last spring.”

According to Culpepper, U of T will now be annually providing per student funding data that satisfies the union’s requirements. “It is correct to say that we now have enough data and accurate data,” says Culpepper. He called it “a major component of the settlement” and explained that the additional $1 million being transferred into the GSBF is based on calculations made using this data.

The accusation that the university had provided “inaccurate and misleading” information on per student funding that was used to “cost and craft” the final agreement awarded in arbitration was central to the union’s grievance before the labour board.

U of T’s press release makes no mention of this data.

According to Lemon, “The data set that the University provided to the union in September 2015 was consistent with what the collective agreement required.” Lemon explained that within the last few weeks, the university agreed to provide “a breakdown of that data into additional categories to help the union move forward on distributing the funds to eligible students.”

A lack of trust

The legal dispute began after CUPE 3902 Unit 1’s 28-day legal strike in March 2015, when the university and the union agreed to enter into  binding arbitration.

The union requested the minimum level of funding provided for teaching assistants be raised from $15,000 to $17,500. In June 2015, the arbiter ruled in favour of the university.

In September 2017, the union and university will begin the bargaining process over their next contract.

“I think the round will go well only if the Parties are willing to do a lot more work bargaining face to face (rather than through a mediator) and are willing to put everything they’re agreeing to clearly in writing,” said Culpepper. “There is very little trust on this end.”

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