Bargaining update - Outrageous pay offer by employer includes no increase in salary for this year - July 5, 2024

On July 3, the Ontario Ministry of Labour appointed Conciliation Officer Hanane Benzidane to work with YUFA and the Employer on our negotiations.  YUFA’s bargaining team has a conciliation meeting with Hanane Benzidane and the Employer’s bargaining team scheduled for the afternoon of Tuesday July 9. 

At that meeting, YUFA plans to present our final set of bargaining proposals, as approved by the membership.  As noted in YUFA’s Bargaining Update of July 2, the Employer is proposing no increase in pay for YUFA members in 2024-2025 followed by an increase of 3.95% in 2025-2026 and just 1.85% in 2026-2027. 

Cost of living increases in Canada mean that YUFA members have lost 5.7 % of their buying power from 2021 to 2024, and would lose even more buying power under the Employer’s proposed salaries for 2024-2027.  In 2021-2024, inflation was 14.7%, but YUFA salaries only increased 9%, including the retroactive Bill 124 settlement. With inflation still relatively high at 2.9% per year, and the employer offering only about 1.9% per year with a salary freeze in the first year, we will fall even further behind inflation. Grocery costs have risen 21.6% since 2021, and Toronto housing costs have risen a staggering 17% since 2020.

In YUFA’s view, the Employer’s salary proposal is an outrageous attempt to shift the burden of financial mismanagement by the York University administration onto the shoulders of its full-time faculty, librarians, and archivists, who have kept the university going through the Covid pandemic amidst many challenges.

The Ontario Auditor General (OAG), in its December 2023 report, names in detail many specific aspects of the York University administration’s financial mismanagement, including pay increases of about 47% since 2018 for a ballooning group of senior administrators, failure to responsibly assess the financial viability of major capital expenditures, and cost overruns on many administration and construction projects.  The OAG report also comments on York University’s lack of a whistle-blower policy for disclosure of all types of wrongdoing, and on lax oversight by the Board of Governors.

The Employer’s decision to max out York’s borrowing potential at $600 million, mostly to pay for the Markham campus following withdrawal of financial support by the provincial government in 2018, means that York University is now paying $26.3 million a year in interest – for an estimated total of $78.2 million over the period 2024-2027.  In comparison, paying YUFA members a 4% salary increase would cost the university an estimated $11 million per year.

The Markham campus, expected to cost $260.5 million, is set to open in September, however student enrollments are much lower than expected: only 51 students had confirmed their intention to attend as of June 10.   The OAG report (p. 3) notes that Markham decisions were made without a normal financial viability analysis.  YUFA members have consistently raised cautions about Markham at Senate and at joint committees where faculty are represented.  

As part of normal bargaining, YUFA has requested disclosure by the Employer of a range of relevant financial information to allow us to ‘cost’ our proposals, but this has not yet been provided.

YUFA members are not responsible for the budget problems the administration has created.  On the contrary, income to the university from YUFA members’ successful research grant applications is lauded as one of the high points of York University’s financial situation.  As much as the Employer is ‘crying poor’, the university’s audited financial statements as of April 30, 2024 show a healthy positive net asset balance.

Other unions at York are receiving pay increases. CUPE 3903’s settlement was 3.10%, 2.85%, 2.85% over the coming three years.  CUPE 1356, York University’s custodial, housing, grounds, maintenance, parking, security, transportation, and safety workers, negotiated 4%, 3.1%, 2.85%, and 2.85% wage increases for the calendar years 2024-2027.

The York University administration is proposing to increase the pay of YUFA members by much less.  The Employer’s proposed average annual increase for YUFA of 1.93% is well below the 2.9% - 3.5% per year range that other faculty associations in our sector are getting in recent settlements. And the Employer’s proposal includes further freezes to our ‘progress through the ranks’ (PTR) increment.

YUFA’s Executive has called an emergency Stewards Council meeting for Monday, July 8 (from 11am to noon) and a General Membership Meeting for Wednesday, July 10 (from 10 am to noon) to discuss the current bargaining situation with members and prepare to oppose the Employer’s scare tactics in the strongest terms. Zoom links and more information will follow soon.