The Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 3902 (CUPE 3902), which represents teaching assistants, sessional lecturers, and postdoctoral fellows at the University of Toronto, has filed an unfair labour practice complaint against the University of Toronto through the Ontario Labour Relations Board, effectively initiating a form of legal action against the university.
Representatives from CUPE 3902 released a public statement in which they allege that, during labour negotiations with the university last winter, the university administration were dealing in bad faith in that they did not report data related to the contentious Graduate Student Bursary Fund accurately.
The university and CUPE 3902 entered into binding arbitration in March of this year in order to reach consensus on two unresolved grievances, one of which was the Graduate Student Bursary Fund. CUPE 3902 is now accusing the university of obfuscation. The statement alleges that the data relating to per-student funding on which the union had based their negotiating position was “out-dated, inaccurate and misleading.” The release goes on to suggest that the numbers provided by the university included other sources of income that “union members secured independently of their funding.”
“It cannot be overstated how important this data was to our position in bargaining. It completely underpins the Fund we negotiated. Not only is the Fund now insufficient for its intended purpose, we can’t disburse the money we do have because the data is junk,” added Isabel Stowell-Kaplan, vice chair of CUPE 3902, unit 1.
“The U of T administration lied to us. They lied about our members’ funding levels, then allowed us to negotiate the end to a 4-week strike based on incorrect data they supplied. They bargained in bad faith at a tense time when honest mattered more than ever. This behaviour calls the entirety of collective bargaining, the end of the strike and the whole collective agreement into question,” said Ryan Culpepper, chair of the local and member of the bargaining team for CUPE 3902 in the statement.
U of T’s Angela Hildyard, professor and vice-president, human resources and equity, offered a different perspective on the issue. According to Hildyard, students have been contacting the university to ask about the $1.045 million in funding that was allocated under the Graduate Students’ Bursary Fund during the most recent round of labour negotiations that they have yet to receive.
“The University provided these funds to CUPE in late August 2015,” Hildyard was quoted saying in an email to The Varsity. “At the end of September, the University provided CUPE with the data required to allow them to distribute the funds to eligible students. CUPE has been provided with the funds and all of the information necessary to enable them to disburse the funds. Unfortunately, to date, CUPE has chosen to distribute none of these Graduate Student Bursary Fund monies.”
Hildyard’s statement went on to suggest that the university has “made several requests to CUPE to disburse these funds and we will continue to do so.”
Professor Hildyard also indicated that the university “vigorously denies the allegations.” The university will be responding to CUPE’s complaint and “the matter will be dealt with by the Labour Board.”
In a Facebook post released on Wednesday night, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) offered their solidarity with CUPE 3902 and encouraged students to join in a rally, hosted by CUPE 3902 on Tuesday, December 15 at 3:30 pm.
This story has been updated from a previous version to include a statement from professor and vice-president, human resources and equity, Angela Hildyard.