Simcoe Hall, home of U of T's Governing Council which makes decisions on students' tuition. STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

The University of Toronto has successfully reached labour agreements with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3902 and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 353, according to a U of T News article published June 2.

Unit 5 of CUPE 3902 represents postdoctoral fellows at the university, and machinists are one of three units at the university represented by IBEW Local 353.

Pay raises for postdocs

Unit 5 of CUPE 3902 represents approximately 650 individuals employed and registered as Postdoctoral Fellows at UTSG and UTM. Unit 5’s first collective labour agreement with U of T began on January 26, 2015 with a term lasting until December 31, 2016. The Unit 5 Bargaining Team began negotiations in November 2016; a tentative agreement was reached on May 18 for the term January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2019. This agreement was unanimously ratified by Unit 5 members on May 29 and 30.

The negotiations between Unit 5 and the university did progress to the conciliation stage. In the collective bargaining process, conciliation occurs if a tentative agreement cannot be reached after the initial collective bargaining stage. If a tentative agreement cannot be reached after conciliation, labour unions will either strike or lockout until an agreement is reached.

According to CUPE 3902 Chair Ryan Culpepper, it tends to take several months to complete a round of bargaining for a unit as large as the postdocs. “The Union came with ambitious proposals we were absolutely dedicated to achieving, and the Employer dug in and didn’t want to agree to any of them,” he told The Varsity.

Culpepper noted that by the end of the conciliation process, there was still no agreement. “Thankfully with additional mediation efforts we were able to reach an agreement before [our deadline of] May 31, averting a strike on campus,” he said.

Kelly Hannah-Moffat, Vice-President of Human Resources and Equity at the university, commented on Culpepper’s statement, said that the university “did work very hard with that union, and I do not feel that the university by any means dug in with their flexibility.”

Included in the memorandum that was agreed upon by Unit 5 and the university are increases in the minimum annual full-time salary inclusive of vacation pay. The original 2015 agreement included a $30,500 minimum annual full-time salary, rising to $31,000 in 2016. The latest agreement increases the minimum to $33,000 upon ratification, rising to $34,000 in 2018 and $35,000 in 2019. Culpepper noted that “everybody, regardless of how far above the minimum [salary] they are, got a raise.”

The agreement also saw reforms to medical coverage and days off. According to Culpepper, this included tripling the mental health coverage and increasing all major medical benefits. The agreement also included an additional six paid vacation days per year, as well as “crucial” job security protections that ensure contracts and contract renewals are always at least twelve months in length.

In what Culpepper referred to as the most impressive gain in the agreement, the postdocs secured a new childcare benefit worth up to $2,000 per child for members who pay for daycare out of pocket while they work.

“All in all, it’s an outstanding achievement for them, and Postdocs should be very proud of their new contract,” Culpepper said.

Scarce machinists reach agreement after stall

IBEW Local 353 represents approximately 10,000 members across central Ontario, but Hannah-Moffat believes there are under 10 employees in the machinist unit at the university.

The union’s first collective labour agreement with U of T began on May 1, 2012 and continued until April 30, 2015. According to article 41:01 of the initial agreement, the agreement would continue to automatically renew for one year after its end date, unless either party notified the other that it desired to amend or terminate the agreement three months prior to expiry.

The university and IBEW started bargaining in the summer of 2015, prior to the formal ending of their initial collective agreement, Hannah-Moffat told The Varsity. “They reached a tentative agreement in August of 2015, but that agreement was not accepted by the employees of the bargaining unit, even though it was unanimously recommended by the unit’s bargaining committee.”

This meant, according to Hannah-Moffat, that the negotiations were stalled for 18 months. Bargaining resumed in 2017, and a tentative agreement was reached relatively quickly and then accepted by the employees. The memorandum was then ratified on May 30.

“I think that for the most part the important thing for the university is that we’ve reached renewed collective agreements with both [unions] without labour disruption,” Hannah-Moffat said of the two agreements. “And we worked very hard to do that.”

IBEW Local 353 was unable to connect The Varsity with a member who was able to comment on the agreement.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article misquoted Kelly Hannah-Moffat saying “labour obstruction.” She said “labour disruption.”

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