Saturday, March 7, 2015

March 06, 2015

In the course of the day the Cupe 3903 bargaining team received the most recent offer of the employer, returned a counter offer, and got another back.

In the employer's offer the demand for the preservation and strengthening of tuition indexation was not met, and they had not moved on wages, but improvements were made on equity language, child care, unit 2 conversions, and a back to work protocol. The bargaining team affirmed their commitment to tuition indexation and so countered with an offer with indexation included. This counter offer, had it been accepted by the employer, would have been - I believe - close to acceptable to the membership. Had the employer accepted the bargaining team's counter offer with tuition indexation language preserved and strengthened in the collective agreement, then it would have unambiguously merited the consideration of the membership. But this was not the case. The employer's counter offer affirmed their commitment to exclude the strengthened tuition indexation language from the collective agreement, largely because subverting this language and raising international student tuition to predatory levels has become convenient for them.

The employer's first offer was received before noon, the bargaining team's counter was received by the employer in the late afternoon, and the employer's counter was received some time after 7 p.m. The employer's counter, received late in the day, doubled down on the exclusion of strengthened tuition indexation language. For a deal to be acceptable to the membership it must preserve and strengthen tuition indexation language in the collective agreement, strengthen job security and address the concerns of each unit equally. The counter-offer sent by the 3903 bargaining team approached this, the counter-offer back from the employer, in its not preserving and strengthening tuition indexation language in the collective agreement, was a retrogression by comparison.

The bargaining team voted 5-1 to bring the offer to the membership for a vote, the dissenting vote stressed that the offer does not preserve and strengthen tuition indexation language and was therefore not acceptable, and the remaining members of the bargaining team argued merely that the offer from the employer was sufficiently different from the original offer to merit a ratification vote. In fact, the primary motivation given for the submission of the offer to a ratification vote was precisely that not allowing the membership to vote on the offer might appear undemocratic, and not at all that the offer was in and of itself worthy of being ratified.

Non-voting members present were of two kinds, both critical of both the offer and the process by which it has come to be subject to a ratification vote: the first, who maintained that tuition indexation is a red line, achieved through years of collective bargaining, and that the employer's efforts to undercut this principle must be met resolutely; that the absence of unit three representatives in the vote to send the offer to ratification, while of debatable procedural correctness, at the very least undermines the legitimacy of its going to ratification; and that the membership would not want to be asked to vote on an offer that would not be acceptable to those on the lines. These members are to be commended and lauded for their lucid insistence upon union solidarity. The second sort was no less critical, but nonetheless set to work subjecting particulars to excruciating review, only to discover that it is by this measure, too, fundamentally unacceptable. No proclamation of the offer's merit was made at the time insofar as none could have been made, and the discussion exclusively concerned the procedural merits of bringing the offer to ratification at all.

One hour after the conclusion of the meeting a press release referred to the offer as a 'tentative agreement' which was then reported by the Star and tweeted by YFS; I consider this to have been counterproductive, and to have lent credence to the concerns of those non-voting members, who had stressed that a deal that lacked preserved and strengthened tuition indexation language was unacceptable, that 'procedural necessity' would be misconstrued as, or misunderstood as, endorsement.

The offer being voted upon on Monday is unacceptable; few wish to be striking, but the rapacious financial interests of the university must not be allowed to cow the membership into accepting an offer than demonstrably undermines their interests. The preservation and strengthening of tuition indexation language is not merely part of the interests of those of us here now, but moreover a legacy of many rounds of bargaining, it is quite literally not ours to give up. I will be voting no to the ratification of the offer and I encourage others to do likewise.

Dock Currie

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