York University initiates Supervised Vote on Offers for Settlement
Membership vote could get students back to class
TORONTO, January 9, 2009 – In light of the refusal by the CUPE 3903 bargaining team to take the University’s last offer to their membership for a vote as requested two days ago, York University has requested that the Minister of Labour direct a supervised vote on the comprehensive offers for settlement made by the University on January 7 to its employees represented by CUPE 3903.
At a meeting between the two parties today, CUPE 3903 did not bring forward any modifications to its existing positions, nor did it bring forward a counter-offer.
A separate vote will be required for each of the three bargaining units of CUPE 3903 which represent approximately 950 contract faculty, 1,850 TAs and 550 GAs. The votes will be conducted as soon as they can be arranged by the Ministry of Labour. A simple majority vote in favour of each contract offer would mean the end of the strike and have students back in class as quickly as possible.
“After five months of unsuccessful negotiations, we see this as a necessary step because it will give employees in each bargaining unit a chance to vote on our settlement offers, end this strike and get our students back to class,” said Alex Bilyk, spokesperson for the University.
Talks between the University and CUPE 3903 resumed on January 3 and after 5 days of renewed bargaining the University tabled enhanced settlement offers for all three units. The total value of the University’s offer now stands at 10.7% over 3 years.
Bilyk said there are few options left to end the strike: “The union still has some 75 outstanding demands totalling 15.8% over 2 years that would cost the University $9.9 million annually.”
The union has previously refused to take all outstanding contract issues to binding arbitration, which would also end the strike.
The University has recently successfully negotiated 3-year contracts with other campus unions, including CUPE 1356, which overwhelmingly ratified a 3-year contract with a 9.25 percent wage increase plus other contract improvements.
Under Ontario’s labour relations laws, employers can ask for a secret-ballot vote of union members on a contract offer. The vote is conducted and supervised by the Ministry of Labour, with the voting location and days allocated for voting to be decided by the Ministry of Labour, after input from both the employer and the union.
Full details of the University’s comprehensive offers for settlement have been posted on the York website.
Employer Forces Ratification Vote
January 9, 2009 (3PM)
Yesterday (Thursday, January 8th) at a general membership meeting, the bargaining team and executive presented the employer’s latest offer to the membership. The offer was resoundingly rejected by the membership, with 90% of members in attendance voting to refrain from sending the offer to ratification. In response, instead of bargaining at the table, the employer has notified CUPE 3903 that it has begun the process of holding a forced ratification vote.
What is a forced ratification vote? A forced ratification vote (what they refer to as a “supervised vote”) is, essentially, a loophole in the labour laws that gives the employer the power to circumvent the bargaining process—to contact striking members directly and compel them to vote on a deal of the employer’s own choosing.
The employer is only legally allowed to use it once. The forced vote is a powerful instrument that the employer uses in order to maximize confusion and minimize the need to make meaningful movements at the table.
Needless to say, the union is disappointed that the employer has once again walked away from the bargaining process. This disappointment is compounded by the fact that the deal does not adequately address our three main priorities:
The union is encouraging all members to reject this offer by voting no. The employer is counting on our members settling for a concessionary offer.
Unions that are able to beat a forced ratification find that they are able to put the bargaining team in an immensely strong position. Your no vote will signal to the employer that the offer is not adequate, and as such, they will need to table an offer that addresses our three main priorities. In future negotiations, their forced offer becomes the floor for a settlement, as they cannot avoid bargaining at the table any longer.
VOTE NO TO FORCED RATIFICATION!
Please check for further updates as further details will be posted regularly. Union members will receive packages that give more specific information on the employer’s offer.