Bargaining update #1

YUFA Bargaining Team presents full proposals package today

By YUFA Executive

As most of you know, the YUFA Collective Agreement expired on April 30, 2018. While the CUPE 3903 strike continues, YUFA has made every effort to ensure that our round of bargaining is not delayed. So far, we have had one meeting with the Employer to discuss preliminary items such as the bargaining protocol. We have been waiting for additional dates. The Employer has now confirmed Monday, May 28 and Thursday, May 31. We will be pursuing a busy schedule of meetings over the summer.

At today’s session, YUFA will be presenting the full package of proposals, based on the Primary Negotiating Positions approved by our members earlier this year.

This is an important round of bargaining for YUFA. We have a number of key proposals related to issues such as compensation, benefits, faculty complement, equity, teaching load, retirement benefits and pension, governance, and working conditions. An abbreviated “user-friendly” list of proposals can be found here, and our full package of proposals submitted to the Employer can be found here. In the meantime, we offer the following summary of some key issues.

Compensation and benefits

YUFA members have accepted below-average salary settlements over the past 3-6 years. In the current round, we are committed to making sure our salaries remain competitive, and to this end, we are proposing a 3% across-the-board increase, plus improved sabbatical pay. YUFA members are especially concerned that their annual progress-through-the-ranks (PTR) increments have been frozen for eight of the past nine years. Our members’ career salary progression slope has become much flatter as a result, and we lag behind faculty at other institutions (such as Ryerson, which enjoys an annual PTR increment of $3,250 compared to only $2,750 for York faculty members).

In addition, many of our benefits provisions have been inhibited by annual caps that have not been increased for years. Freezing of these caps has resulted in significant reductions in benefits coverage. YUFA has proposals to address this, as well as updating benefits – such as including items like dental implants, for which many of our counterparts at other universities now have coverage.

Faculty complement and faculty renewal (including librarians and archivists)

Since 2001, York’s ratio of students to tenure stream faculty has increased by almost 25%, from 26/1 to 31/1. To fill the gap, York has chosen to rely on increasing numbers of contract faculty and contractually limited appointments (CLAs). It is YUFA’s view that the renewal of the tenure-stream complement must be at the top of York’s academic and institutional planning, especially in the wake of a very disruptive strike which highlighted the problem of precarious academic work. YUFA is putting forward a comprehensive proposal to improve the tenure-stream complement by requiring the achievement of a 26/1 student-to-tenure-stream ratio by the end of the academic year 2021-22. We are proposing similar improvements in the ratio for librarians and archivists.

Equity

We will shortly be circulating our bargaining backgrounder on Equity issues, but as you can see from our summary, YUFA is coming to the table with proposals for stronger language for hiring racialized faculty and for targeted appointments for Black faculty members and for Indigenous faculty members. These and other key equity proposals have been prepared in collaboration with our Equity caucuses.

Teaching load

Members have indicated their concern that the Research Release Program negotiated for the 2015-18 Collective Agreement still leaves our University significantly behind the institutions that are our most obvious comparators where the maximum normal load is two full-year courses. There is also concern about the unnecessary complexity and unfairness of the process of annually reassessing individual member’s teaching load. Addressing this issue is a high priority in the current round and is important for York’s efforts to advance research intensity.

Retirement: Benefits and pension

Many of our members have signaled to YUFA that their anxieties about retirement centre around the comparatively weak (and expensive) retiree benefits package offered by the University. Although some changes to the retiree benefits package were negotiated in 2015, the weakness of the overall package is still evident, as retiring members face diminished coverages at a time when many of them will be requiring higher levels of medical, dental, and paramedical services. YUFA is therefore proposing that retired members receive benefits on par with current members.

Further concerns for retiring members emerged in 2015 after the University demanded all York employees accept lower pension indexing. This was accompanied by further reductions to our pension income that came with a significant increase to the “non-reduction” levy charged to money purchase pensions at the point of retirement. Taken together, these changes are alarming as pensions provide up to one-third of the lifetime income of our members.

YUFA is working outside of bargaining in the All University Pension Committee (AUPC) to restore a meaningful level of indexing for our pension plan, which would require addressing the suppression of indexing during the first five years of retirement that took effect in 2015. Richard Wellen, as the current Co-Chair of the AUPC, is working with a group of representatives from other campus employee groups to bring forward these proposed improvements. YUFA has held a special meeting on this topic with our members and has published background material here: Pension backgrounder: Pension surpluses and revisiting pension cuts, Pension FAQ (2018), and Slides from YUFA special meeting on pensions (January 24, 2018).

Governance

Article 17 of the YUFA Collective Agreement provides scope for YUFA to negotiate improvements and participation guarantees regarding the operation of the major governance bodies and processes at York. Our current package also includes proposals that would restore the role of open searches and Senate participation in Presidential searches. It also requires Senate approval of Strategic Mandate Agreements (SMAs), as the latter falls within the area of academic policy over which Senate has jurisdiction under the York University Act.

In addition, we have proposals requiring more inclusive participation for faculty members and other constituencies on the major committees of York’s Board of Governors, as well as revisions to the composition of the Board of Governors, which will ensure a more representative Board.

Conclusion

This review includes only a portion of YUFA’s full list of proposals. To review the full list, please click here. To review the summary, please click here. We will also publish a series of “bargaining backgrounders” over the coming weeks. The Bargaining Team and Executive Committee are committed to providing timely membership updates on the progress of negotiations over the summer months and as bargaining continues.

YUFA’s Bargaining Team

YUFA’s Bargaining Team is comprised of the following members:

  • Miriam Smith (Chief Negotiator) *
  • Michol Hoffman
  • Frances Latchford
  • Art Redding (ex-officio after June 1) **
  • Shanker Trivedi
  • Richard Wellen **

* Prof. Smith has replaced Justin Podur who resigned due to an urgent family matter. The YUFA Executive Committee would like to thank Justin for leading the team through bargaining preparation and early meetings with the Employer over the past few months.

** Richard Wellen will be added as a regular member of the team after Art Redding assumes the position of YUFA President on June 1.