CUPE 3902 remains on strike


in Daily updates

After working on the brief from 10am to nearly midnight yesterday, I decided to go to sleep without learning the result of the latest CUPE 3902 ratification vote. I had a difficult time of it, experiencing the worst headache I can remember for almost the entire night. I found that putting pressure on one part of my right forehead helped slightly to alleviate it.

This morning, I was surprised to see that the latest tentative agreement had been rejected, despite significant efforts from the union administration to push it: with most of them arguing for acceptance at the last general meeting, emails from the union calling for members to vote yes, and even robocalls from CUPE 3902 local chair Erin Black urging members to vote yes.

The breakdown of the vote ended up as 992 in favour, 1101 opposed, 4 spoiled ballots, and 27 rejected ballots.

At least one member of the bargaining team said she would resign if this tentative agreement was rejected. We will see if any other personnel changes take place, as well as what sorts of escalation will be put to use this week.

This is a critical time period for the strike. As of now, it’s still possible to salvage a reasonably normal semester, if an agreement is reached soon. TAs can begin with the backlog of grading, perhaps replace some missed tutorials and labs, and be available for final exam inviligation and grading. If the strike goes on much longer, however, that option becomes less and less plausible and the possibility of the university invoking some sort of academic continuity policy to make TA labour unnecessary rises. The extension of the term into the ‘summer’ (which at U of T means ‘May’) also seems to become more plausible.

I am going to keep doing photographic work and picketing as much as I can, while still trying to get the brief update done before the ad hoc committee meets on the 27th…

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

. March 23, 2015 at 10:57 am


See below. And see you on the lines. Let’s make this week the strongest, loudest, most effective week yet!

In Solidarity,




Did the Administration accept the Union’s offer last week?

No. The Union tabled an offer on Sunday, March 15, that had the endorsement of Unit 1 members and would be ratified. The Employer refused this offer. The Administration then made a new offer of their own on Tuesday, March 17. The Union requested minor language changes to the Administration’s offer and then brought it to members for their consideration. The Union’s Bargaining Team was not unanimous in recommending this Administration offer.

What happened in the vote?

Over 1600 members met on Friday, March 20, to decide whether or not to hold a full ratification vote on the Administrations’s March 17 offer, as amended by the Union Bargaining Team. They narrowly (793-743) decided to hold a full ratification vote over the weekend.

Over 2000 members voted at ballot boxes over the weekend. 992 voted to ratify the Employer’s offer as our new Collective Agreement. 1101 voted not to ratify. 27 votes were deemed ineligible, and 4 ballots were spoiled.

What is the sticking point?

The Union and the Administration have agreed on benefit funds that would top up members’ minimum funding packages and lower their tuition in the later years of their degrees. The Administration has refused to put in writing the per-member value of the benefits. Union members are demanding clear language guaranteeing the amount of benefit funds they will receive. This should be an easy change, and there is no reason an agreement that members will ratify should be far away if the Administration will simply write down and guarantee the benefits they are asking us to take as a settlement.

What happens now?

The Union remains on strike. We will continue to demand that, if the Administration wants us to settle these negotiations with new benefit funds, they put in writing the per-member value of those funds. We hope this will happen quickly. The best way to make this the case is for every Unit 1 member to redouble their efforts to support the strike and make it stronger than ever this week.

Notice will be forthcoming of a Unit 1 meeting. Members will be able to discuss things and ask more specific questions there. Until then, questions can be directed to We have a team of people devoted to answering questions expediently.

How can I support the strike this week?

Continue not working, and talk to your colleagues who may be working. Urge them to respect the fully democratic decision we just made together.

You can sign up for strike duty here:

For weekday pickets:

For evening and weekend pickets:

If you can’t do a full 20 hours, please come out for any shifts you can make. You can receive a day rate of $60 if you have commitments or work that prevent you from doing the standard 20 hours. Please fill out this form:

Ryan Culpepper
Vice-Chair, Unit 1 and Unit 2
CUPE 3902

. March 24, 2015 at 1:54 pm

Dear Students,

This weekend, CUPE members voted against a settlement offer recommended by CUPE 3902 Unit 1’s bargaining committee that, if accepted, would have ended the strike by teaching assistants, lab assistants, graders, markers, and course instructors.

Without a ratified agreement, the strike will continue.

We are in touch with the Provincial Mediator regarding next steps and are very committed to addressing this impasse.

The University as a whole is committed to finding solutions that will allow you to complete your school year, ensuring that:
– graduating students can graduate in a timely fashion, and
– continuing students can progress appropriately in their degree.

Students in classes that have operated with no or minimal disruption should continue to attend class and submit work as usual.

Students in classes that have been suspended or significantly disrupted are understandably anxious. Please know that we have identified these courses. Deans’ offices and departments have assessed the status of all disrupted courses and are working to identify the best way to move forward with each class. Please wait to make any final decisions about your courses until the plan for each course has been fully communicated to you.

You should consult the updated FAQs at Daily updates will be posted to Blackboard and ROSI over the final two weeks of the term to keep you informed about next steps, resources available to support you, and other critical information. You should also check your divisional website for information pertaining to your individual program.

Cheryl Regehr
Vice-President & Provost

Angela Hildyard
Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity

. March 24, 2015 at 5:38 pm


As the strike enters its fourth week, University Administrators have begun to pressure undergrads to change course syllabi, alter assignment weighting, and cancel assignments outright. University regulations require that students vote on these changes in class. We encourage you to vote NO.


● Syllabus changes erode your right to a fair evaluation

● Previous assignments will count for your whole grade—this is unfair to you

● Simplistic multiple­choice exams poorly reflect what you have learned

● Employers and professional schools are unlikely to treat pass/fail grades as proof of competence

● Changes undervalue your education — this is not what you paid for


● Any and all syllabus changes require a vote in class

● A majority of the students in attendance must vote “yes” for a change to take effect

● Votes must be announced at least one class session before the vote takes place

● Votes must include a “no changes” option

This matters to you because your TAs want to improve learning conditions in a new agreement. Syllabus changes harm not only your TAs, but also undermine undergraduate education now. These so­called “academic continuity” measures threaten the academic integrity of your courses and the university experience as a whole.

Know your rights.
Get a REAL grade.
Vote NO on changing YOUR syllabus.

. March 24, 2015 at 10:16 pm

An Academic ‘War Measures Act’

In their desire to suffocate future labour actions (and provide potential options for other, actual catastrophes), the Administration and then-members of Governing Council created the Policy on Academic Continuity. That sounds innocuous enough, surely. We all want to continue our academics. But, this policy—I would argue—creates a situation wherein the academic freedom of our whole community is in jeopardy and where the basic understandings of labour relations are tossed to the wind.

This policy states that it exists so that it “will guide the University in enhancing its ability to fulfill its academic mission in the face of potential threats to academic continuity”. But, where shall it guide us exactly? The policy gives near-unlimited power to the administration “to declare that a state of disruption has occurred”, to end that status, to coordinate between all faculties and departments, and “to make changes to any aspect of its academic activities including the delivery of courses and programs, course and program requirements, modes of evaluation, and the length of the academic term” either through Academic Board or through the sheer and sole will of the Provost.

Now, what is this so-called “state of disruption”? It can be anything from pandemics to volcanos to, apparently, labour disputes. Surely, you see the issue here? Labour actions may be unpleasant for those losing out on immediate access to services, but they are a fundamental means to improve the quality of life of so, so many. Simply put, we lose much of what we enjoy as labourers and students alike, if we allow such rights to be quashed. One of the demands of the policy requires that, if certain academic duties cannot be done by some instructors, that local admin “identify an alternate instructor”. Outside of a labour dispute? Fine. Inside one? A call for scab labour.

In such a supposed state, mind you, the University will have no problem stepping upon students’ rights either. Gone is your right to class consensus to changes in your syllabi! Instead, your remaining instructors will be called upon to alter “course procedures, requirements and methods of evaluation in consultation with academic administrators to help ensure academic continuity”. Out of your hands go the very reigns of your academic term. Similarly, the policy is worded as compulsion for the professoriate to comply—their academic freedom too, throughout the policy, is left in tatters if enacted.

. March 24, 2015 at 10:17 pm

Up to this point, it has been distressing to watch the slow progress of negotiations between Unit 1 and the administration. But we are now rapidly approaching a new crisis as bargaining enters a new round and the end of term grows near. As UTFA president Scott Prudham’s recent message indicates, it seems clear that the Provost’s office is moving toward declaring a state of disruption, which would bring the Policy on Academic Continuity into play. Under that policy, the university administration could use its executive authority to override the academic freedom of both permanent and contract faculty throughout the university community.

The implementation of such a policy would be extremely destructive to the academic integrity of this institution. The preamble to the Policy on Academic Continuity states that “the University of Toronto is committed to fulfilling its core academic mission of educating students.” Yet the policy that follows that statement is not honestly directed toward that aim.

There are no circumstances in which academic freedom can legitimately be sacrificed in the name of academic continuity. Academic freedom is the defining characteristic of a university. Our teaching and evaluation practices are an integral part of our expression of academic freedom. We would consider any attempt by the U of T administration to invoke the Policy on Academic Continuity to be a direct violation of Article 7.02, part (b) of our new collective agreement, which guarantees “freedom from institutional censorship,” and accordingly, we would pursue a grievance process against the administration.

. March 25, 2015 at 10:18 pm

Dear Members,

Today, as our Bargaining Team was preparing to send a revised agreement to the employer, the employer approached us, proposing we irrevocably agree to binding arbitration. Accepting this would mean that all of us instantly return to work. The employer gave us a deadline of 5pm today to accept or decline, presumably in a last ditch effort to save the semester.

After all the effort our members have put in as a group, our Bargaining Team felt unable to agree to this solution without first consulting our members. The earliest we could discuss this as a group would have been Tuesday at the scheduled meeting, far past the deadline we were given. So instead, we have countered with an amended proposal that introduced appropriate “per member” language into the agreement, in line with what we see as the will of our general membership. Please find the two additional articles attached.

Our employer is anxious to get us back to work, but their concern is that a third deal would be rejected, just as the first two were. Nevertheless, the bargaining team believes the offer we made is extremely agreeable, and would unanimously recommend it if the employer accepts it.

If this results in a tentative agreement, we will call an emergency meeting to vote on whether to hold a ratification vote. If we then vote to ratify, we would be back in our classrooms by Saturday.

We believe this is a fair and expeditious resolution to the strike. Should we be unable to reach a tentative agreement by Tuesday, we will still meet to consider what our options are moving forward.

To be clear, we remain on strike. This is an especially important time to strike and strike hard.

Sincerely and in solidarity,

Your Bargaining Team.

Dan Brielmaier

Ryan Culpepper

Curtis Forbes

Tom Laughlin

Lama Mourad

Joan Ngo

. March 29, 2015 at 1:01 pm


1. When and how will I receive my March paycheque from the university?

Members will be paid “off-cycle” through normal payroll as soon as possible, and likely no later thanApril 10. Payroll might not occur across all departments or for all members on the same day. There will likely be minor problems in the processing of March payroll – please contact if you have questions about, or do not receive by mid-April, your March pay.

2. How much will I be paid for March? For the term? What if some/all of my remaining hours were taken away from me?

All members who were on strike who are normally paid in equal monthly installments will be paid 15/22 of their March pay, and 100% of their April pay. This amounts to 68% of the month of March, and 92% of pay for the term. For example, a member who is normally paid $1000 per month will receive $681.81 as March pay (1000 / 22 x 15). January, February and April pay would still be $1000 per month. Total term pay would be $3681.81 (or 92% of $4000).

Members who are still owed monthly installments in January/February which were not paid should contact the union at

3. How many hours in total can I be asked to work this term? Is it possible that I will have to perform a small number of unpaid hours?

You may be asked to perform up to 100% of your regular hours for the term. The Protocol is based on the principle that everyone involved in delivering the academic programs in your department will make a collective effort to complete the term in a manner which is fair to students and fair and equitable to our members.

For example, it would be somewhat inequitable for some members to be paid 92% of their pay for the term and ultimately perform only 50% of their assigned hours, and for others to be paid 92% of the term and to be returning to 100% of their assigned hours, and in a compressed period. Departments have been advised that it might be more fair and equitable for there to be some degree of sharing of remaining tasks, as reasonable and appropriate in particular circumstances. (See next question.)

4. Can my assigned duties (ie. on my DDAH form of letter of offer) be altered?

An employee may be asked to perform reasonable bargaining unit work not originally assigned to them, which can in exceptional circumstances be transferred between courses in a Department to distribute the workload across courses more equitably. (No member can be asked to work more than the total hours they were originally assigned without extra pay.)

5. What if I’m asked to work more than 100% of my contracted hours?

If you are asked, and agree, to perform hours above those for which you were originally contracted, you must be paid at the appropriate Collective Agreement rate (as per the expired Collective Agreement, which is in effect until the new Agreement is completed in arbitration shortly). A membercan, contrary to the wording of paragraph 5 of the Protocol, address failure to be paid for such additional hours (ie. above those originally assigned) through the workload review/grievance process.

6. Can my workload be compressed into an unreasonable time period?

No; although your workload may be compressed a little, it cannot be compressed unreasonably. Departmental norms and with respect to turnaround times for graded assignments or exams should be adhered to if reasonably possible, and altered expectations should be reasonable and clearly communicated to employees. In addition to your Collective Agreement, you are protected by the Ontario Employment Standards Act. A summary of your rights with respect to daily and weekly workload can he found here:

You cannot legally be asked or allowed to work more than 48 hours in one week, and if you are asked to work more than 44 hours per week, you must be paid a “time and a half” for for hours worked between 44 and 48 hours. You also cannot be required to work more than 8 hours in a single day (unless this was previously arranged as part of your normal duties).

7. What if I experience problems, or believe my department is being unreasonable with respect to my duties/hours?

Contact the Union at There are informal and formal mechanisms to resolve such matters (including referral to an arbitrator).

8. I need income to pay rent on April 1. Can I access an emergency loan until I receive my March paycheque from the university?

Emergency loans are available to members to cover them in these circumstances. To receive an interest-free emergency loan by March 31, the loan application form must be submitted to the Union by 11:59pm on Sunday, March 29. The form can be submitted via email to or in person to the CUPE 3902 Office (180 Bloor St. W Suite 803; open for this weekend from 12-6pm on Saturday and Sunday).

Members receiving loans will need to sign a promissory note and provide us with a cheque payable to the union in the amount of the loan. The repayment must be made five days following the receipt of the March paycheque from the university. The union provides notice before the repayment cheque is deposited. If a member is unable to pay the loan as outlined, they must inform us before the five days has lapsed and we will negotiate a repayment schedule with them.

The link to the loan application is here:


1. When will week 3 strike pay be available?

Week 3 picket pay will be available starting Monday, March 30 at the CUPE 3902 Office at 180 Bloor St W (Suite 803) from 9am-4pm.

2. When will week 4 strike pay be available? Will I receive pay if I did not complete 5 shifts before the strike ended?

Week 4 picket pay should be available Monday, April 6. For week 4, each member will receive the daily rate: $60 for each day they picketed or did alternate assigned duties for at least 4 hours.

3. I received the wrong amount for week 1 or 2 and filled out a discrepancy form. When will I receive the remainder of my strike pay?

We are prioritizing issuing strike pay for weeks 3 and 4 before resolving individual discrepancies for weeks 1 and 2. Please be patient; we will get in touch when your discrepancy is resolved.

4. Who receives CUPE National back-to-work pay and when will that be processed?

Any member who completed at least one shift of picket duty or assigned alternate duties will receive $120 from CUPE National. These cheques should be available Monday, April 6.

. March 29, 2015 at 1:05 pm

From the office of Professor Jacques Bertrand, TA Coordinator…

Dear all,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all back to work. The strike was long and we all felt the strain that it placed on our program and relationships. Binding arbitration is not an ideal solution but hopefully will result in a compromise that we can all accept. For the moment, our students above all will greatly appreciate the return of their teaching assistants during the last weeks of the term.

I would like to emphasize very strongly that we value very much the work that you do. We have very gifted teachers among our TA-s and all of you place an enormous amount of effort in providing support and a high-quality learning experience for our undergraduate students. Our mandate as educators is a collaborative effort and your role is particularly key in ensuring that we maintain high standards.

It is important that the Department continue our conversation with you, not only as TA-s but as PhD students. As I have emphasized many times, those two roles are complementary but the institutional rules and norms that guide both relationships are based on different principles. The key is to create the best synergies in those different sets of relationships to ensure that our PhD students are best equipped to become excellent scholars and university educators. This conversation will continue in the months to come.

Meanwhile, we are all resuming normal activities. Some changes will have occurred in some courses, in others you will resume your duties as previously determined. If you have any questions or concerns, please raise them with your supervisors or feel free to contact me as well.

We are posting our summer positions today. I ask that everyone cooperate as best as possible to ensure that our summer session can begin smoothly. The applications will be closing one week before the beginning of the summer term. We will have a very quick turnover in making offers. I would ask in return that you please make sure as well that you respond as quickly as possible to any forthcoming offer.

Finally, we will also begin the process of confirming your intentions to accept your subsequent appointments.

I very much look forward to working with you all again in the coming months, and to continue supporting the excellent teaching that you provide to our students.

Jacques Bertrand

Professor and TA coordinator

Department of Political Science

. March 29, 2015 at 1:11 pm


The strike is over. TAs and faculty members are now focused on helping our undergraduate students complete the semester as smoothly as possible. There will be complications, and the Undergraduate Office remains prepared to assist. If you need help, please call on Rod. On behalf of us all, let me thank him again—and acknowledge publicly the absolutely critical role that Liz and Lauren play in supporting him. A superb team.

Ryan, Carolynn, and Louis in the Graduate Office have calmly coordinated the crucial graduate admissions process during a most stressful time. Julie, Michael, Sari, Mary-Alice, and Brent have been working extremely hard to keep all of our St. George operations running smoothly, and the staff members at UTM and UTSC have done the same on their campuses.

Time for healing and reflection now. Contentious debates take place in all vibrant communities, and they can be healthy if they are not allowed to damage long-term relationships. Our TAs are back, but our graduate students never left our community. They therefore never lost the support of any faculty members.

We have learned once more that the language of Fordism is inimical to the pre-capitalist values still embedded in our academic life. Adversarial posturing, however functional for “employer-employee” bargaining, undermines collegiality. Most of us still only dimly understand what might be at stake in the dispute now going to binding arbitration. Although we must bracket some questions for now, we have no choice but to clarify their possible implications when we calmly resume our Departmental self-study.

In the meantime, let us recover our balance. Look around you during the next couple of weeks—the most exciting in the academic year. Drop in to an event at any college or school, attend a concert or performance on any campus, participate in one convocation ceremony, and remember how lucky we are to be in this fantastic place. Preserving this great university and passing it on in even better shape to future scholars is the common cause all of us share with our colleagues who serve as senior administrators. They make it possible for you and me to cultivate our academic passions, and they deserve our respect.


Louis W. Pauly

Professor and Chair

Department of Political Science

University of Toronto

. March 30, 2015 at 3:04 pm


Please attend an important Unit 1 membership meeting tomorrow (Tuesday, March 31) at the John Bassett Theatre, Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The meeting will be from 5 to 8, with sign-in begining at 4:00.

There have been concerns raised about the venue. Please not that it was booked last week, when we did not know the strike would be over, and that the rental fee is non-refundable. Please note also that it is now too late to book a U of T space of adequate size for tomorrow.

The agenda will be as follows:

1) Order

2) Equity Statement

3) Introductions

4) Agenda

5) Arbitration Report and Update

– Questions and Discussion

6) By-Elections for Unit 1 Bargaining Team

7) Next Steps

– Discussion of Bargaining and Strike Evaluation Committees, Funds Implementation Committees, Healthcare Negotiation Representatives, etc.

8) Announcements

9) Adjournment

Some members have expressed a desire to give input to the Bargaining Team as it works with our legal counsel to prepare for arbitration. More details on this process will be provided at tomorrow’s meeting. At this time, suggestions can be e-mailed to

Members who are interested in being elected to the Unit 1 Bargaining Team to serve during the arbitration period should e-mail a nomination with a second to There are two vacant seats. Members in Division 1 (Humanities), Division 2 (Social Sciences) and Division 5 (Colleges and Centres, Exam Services, Accessibility Services) are eligible.

We all agreed that, even if the strike was ending, we were committing ourselves to solidifying and continuing our efforts to improve learning and working conditions at U of T. Tomorrow is critical to that end. See you there!

In Solidarity,


Ryan Culpepper
Vice-Chair, Unit 1 and Unit 2
CUPE 3902

. March 30, 2015 at 4:41 pm

To: Undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff in the Faculty of Arts & Science

From: David Cameron, Dean

Re: Further Arrangements to Complete the Academic Term

I would like to say how relieved and happy I am that, effective Friday, March 27, the CUPE 3902 Unit 1 strike is over. We are now in the process of welcoming back our colleagues – our course instructors, teaching assistants, lab assistants, markers, graders, and invigilators. Now is the time for us all to re-affirm the values of civility and generosity that characterize the Faculty of Arts & Science at its best. These qualities will serve us well as we work together to return to more normal operations.

It is clear that we are not yet back to normal. Our most immediate priority remains ensuring that undergraduate students will be able to complete their courses and progress in their degrees and that those who are on track to graduate in June are able to do so. Our Grading Practices Policy ( has helped us to make some of the necessary adjustments. As well, the commitments we have made to our students as outlined in my March 23, 2015 email entitled Completing the Term ( still hold. That is, we are still extending the deadline for students to choose Credit/No Credit (CR/NCR) or cancel (drop) courses without academic penalty until after they have seen their final grades (up until May 20, 2015).

While the strike is now over, the impact on some courses has been significant, and additional measures will be needed to resolve some key issues. In some cases, for example, because we are now in the final week of classes, there may not be time for the instructor to give advance in-class notice of a vote to change the course marking scheme as required by the Grading Practices Policy.

The University of Toronto Policy on Academic Continuity ( permits us, where necessary, to make adjustments to our academic offerings in order to achieve a constructive outcome for this academic year. Under this policy, a declaration of academic disruption will furnish our instructors and departments with the tools necessary to enable our undergraduate students to complete their courses.

In order to provide further clarification, the FAQs below will be posted to the Faculty of Arts & Science Current Students website (

It is important that we all work together to complete this academic year as effectively as we can. In particular, I ask instructors and departments to be as flexible and as understanding as possible of the needs and anxieties of our undergraduate students. The end of the academic year is stressful for all students at the best of times; this year, as we recover from the labour disruption, it is even more so.


What is a declaration of academic disruption in a course and how does it work?

Under the Policy on Academic Continuity (, a declaration of an academic disruption in a course indicates that the academic operations in that course will not proceed as normal, and that changes may be made in areas such as course requirements and modes of evaluation. Declarations will be made on an individual course-by-course basis as needed for Faculty of Arts & Science Y and H courses offered during the 2015 Winter term.

Instructors have primary responsibility and authority to make changes to their courses. It is expected that the request for a declaration in a course will be initiated by the instructor in consultation with the unit head. Requests will be submitted to the Dean’s Office via the head of the department or other academic unit offering the course. Final approval will be at the Provostial level. These requests will be expedited by the Dean’s Office, and the Provost’s Office will turn them around quickly. The Dean’s Office will maintain a record of all approved declarations.

What are some examples of the kinds of changes that could be made under the declaration of an academic disruption?

One example would be where a change to a marking scheme is deemed necessary to ensure students are fairly assessed, but without sufficient time for a class vote as required by the Grading Practices Policy ( Another example, which will be relatively rare, would be where there is a very limited ability to obtain and mark student work. In this example, a change in grade scale may be required. This might mean assigning all students in the class a general grade (A/B/etc.) or Credit/No Credit (CR/NCR), rather than the normal refined grade (A+, A, A-) plus numeric mark.

When and how will students know if they are in a course that is subject to a declaration of academic disruption?

If feasible, the instructor will discuss the need for such a declaration with students. As soon as possible after the declaration has been approved, the instructor or the department will inform students, via Blackboard or email, of the reason for the declaration and of the changes that will be made to the course under this provision.

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