This afternoon, the members of CUPE 3902 met to discuss a possible bargaining position.
The union’s bargaining team had worked out a way to reorganize the offer last made by the university, the rejection of which began the strike. As re-organized, the deal would raise the funding package from $15,000 to $17,500. It would also halve tuition for Phd students in their fifth and sixth years, regardless of whether they are domestic or international students.
The big gain – if the university accepts this proposal – is getting tuition and the funding package explicitly incorporated into the collective agreement, opening them as topics of negotiation in all further bargaining.
The meeting was scheduled from 3:30pm to 6:30, with a strict end time. Most of the meeting was taken up with the bargaining team and strike team presenting this potential deal and then answering questions on it. In the last half hour, a motion to approve the deal and have the bargaining team present it to the university was hastily debated.
The final vote at 6:36 went 280 in favour, 251 opposed. I voted against it, as I don’t see it as an adequate response to the problems faced by TAs at U of T, and I think we could have pushed successfully for something better. (At the same time, I recognize that getting something better might have required more dedication than CUPE 3902 members collectively possess.)
Regardless of the merits and drawbacks of the deal, I don’t think too highly of this decision-making process. People had to consider a deal which they hadn’t seen before the meeting, an inadequate amount of time was allowed for debate, and the system where any whoever happens to be at the microphone when the appropriate part of the meeting begins produces the motion that then becomes the main subject for debate and voting has potentially very random results.
We will see how the administration replies to the offer. In one sense, they may see it as a cheap way of ending the strike. After all, the union is mostly proposing to shift the precise way in which previously-offered funds will be spent. Alternatively, the administration may be wary of incorporating tuition and the funding package into the collective agreement, and so resist accepting this deal.
Regardless, I have my last picket duty of this week tomorrow. Then, I can turn my attention to trying to organize and execute the completion of the brief update and my PhD proposal.