FAQ about the NEW CUPE 2278 Collective Agreement
1. What are the key gains in the collective agreement for 2010-2014?
a. Wage increases
i. 0% 2010
ii. 0% 2011
iii. 1% September 1, 2012 (retroactive)
iv. 1% December 1, 2012
v. 2% September 1, 2013
b. A fund to assist members with economic hardship as a result of “costs relating to employment” as a TA.
More importantly, this is language in the collective agreement (LOU #9) that identifies that there are costs associated with being a TA. Throughout this round of bargaining, HR had refused to acknowledge that tuition, student fees and other economic factors are an employment issue for our members until this language was adopted.
c. 5th-year hiring preference for Doctoral students
Under the previous Collective Agreement, Master’s students are guaranteed TA-ships for the first two years of their degree and PhD students are offered TA-ships for the first four years of their degree. By FOGS’ own admission, the average UBC student takes longer to finish. We secured hiring preference for PhD students for 5 years to assist many grad students in reaching graduation.
While your bargaining team, which includes Masters students, fought hard to secure at least an extra semester of preference for Masters students, this request was categorically denied by the employer, who cited stark resistance not only from the Faculty of Grad Studies, but also from Graduate Departments across the university. The Bargaining Committee opted to temporarily shelve this request until the next negotiations and work to convince faculty across campus that extending preference for Masters students benefits everyone.
d. Protection from Academic Harm
Protection from academic harm is intended to safeguard TAs if they are pursuing their rights under the Collective Agreement. It ensures that they cannot be threatened academically if they are filing a grievance about a negative aspect of their work situation. As far as we have seen, this item is the first of its kind in North America and sets a unique precedent for Teaching Assistants and Graduate students across the continent.
e. Unpaid Leave to attend Conferences, Preparation for Comprehensive Exams or Thesis/Dissertation Defense
2. Why is the wage increase 0% for 2010 and 2011?
The BC government stated that between 2010 and 2012 all public sector employees (including TAs) would receive 0% increase in compensation as an austerity measure. This is called the Net Zero Mandate.
3. Why did the bargaining team settle for this deal when they did?
There are many reasons the Bargaining Committee chose to settle for this agreement.
- First, after two years of arduous and at times fractious negotiations, the Committee had achieved several gains at the table, some of them unprecedented and unique in North America.
- Second, the collective bargaining climate in the province is very difficult currently, as indicated by the high number of CUPE locals settling their contracts toward the end of October, two years after most contracts had expired. Gains through bargaining in this round of negotiations were very limited across the Post Secondary Education sector.
- Third, and most poignant, very recently in negotiations the Provincial Government made it known that at some point before the end of November 2012 the co-operative gains mandate and practice of offering wage increases of 0%/0%/2%/2% would be withdrawn and replaced with another net-zero mandate. This means a hard offer of four years without any raises for public sector employees. To avoid seeing even these limited 2% wage increases disappear, your bargaining team agreed to accept the offer made on November 6, 2012 after securing the above concessions from the employer.
4. What happens now?
CUPE 2278 is holding a Ratification Meeting and Vote in Woodward 2 on Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 4 pm where members will vote on whether or not to ratify this tentative agreement recommended by the Bargaining Committee.
5. Where did the money for the economic hardship fund come from?
A delay of application of the 2% increase to wages from September 1 2012 to December 1, 2012 generated the fund. This raise will be split in half so that 1% will be applied retroactively in September 2012 and 1% applied in December 2012.
6. Why didn’t we secure any kind of cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) or child care support? Didn’t we strike for those items too?
- No other CUPE local in BC was able to gain a COLA clause in the contracts negotiated in 2012. Given the province’s ideological view of the economic climate, this item was a non-starter for the employer.
- Since child care is a monetary item, the only way we could have received funding for child care was out of the two years of 2% raises. Not only would it not increase the amount of money 2278 would receive from this contract, it would look like a concession from the employer. The bargaining team therefore made a strategic decision to withdraw this item and focus on other proposed items like preference and costs related to employment status.
7. Did our strike activity actually help us get this agreement?
Without a doubt! While we had already secured a key gain with academic harm language, our initial threat of withdrawing our labour earned us fifth-year hiring preference for Ph.Ds, albeit with several vague qualifications, and the first monetary offer from the employer. After going on strike, we managed to eliminate these qualifications and secure full fifth-year preference. More importantly, without our job action, we would not have received acknowledgment from the employer that there are substantial costs related to our employment as TAs at UBC and that when those costs increase annually, our members face hardship.
8. Ok, but shouldn’t we have gone on strike earlier?
A full strategic debrief will doubtless prove useful for future contract negotiations. However, given the province’s threat of reinstating a net-zero mandate, the fact that all other CUPE locals were either settled or are in the process of settling, and the employer’s straight refusal to move on certain items, it is difficult to see how striking earlier would have earned us more at the bargaining table. Consider too that the TA Union for Simon Fraser University, TSSU, has completely locked down campus for more than a week. Their major sticking point is preference, which CUPE 2278 achieved, and their employer has nonetheless refused to move.
9. No, I mean shouldn’t we have gone on strike in May when the first vote was called?
Again, hindsight is much clearer than foresight, but at the time we were optimistic that gains could be made at the table, and in fact, we achieved movement on preference and wage increases under mediation that we had not yet seen. Furthermore, the province’s co-operative gains mandate now looks like a strategy to pit sister locals against one another, since money to one contract would necessarily take from another. The fact that every single local that has settled so far—including those who engaged in job action much earlier than 2278—received exactly the same monetary offer (0%/0%/2%/2%) also indicates that further financial gains above what 2278 eventually settled for were always extremely unlikely.
10. This deal is terrible! What happens if we vote “No”?
Voting “no” would cancel the tentative agreement, return CUPE 2278 to the bargaining table and re-activate our strike action. Since the Bargaining Team would have lost the confidence of a majority of the membership, they would have to consider whether it was appropriate for them to continue bargaining on the members’ behalf. Once returning to the table, the new Bargaining Team would be faced with the same conditions which brought them to recommend this tentative agreement, with a new province-wide net-zero mandate about to fall.
There would be little-to-no support from sister CUPE locals, who have all settled for similar or slightly weaker collective agreements. The employer would be hamstrung by the new, more austere provincial mandate and their inability or unwillingness to offer more money than previously would be institutionally supported by governmental policy and practice. Strike action would likely continue to escalate throughout the semester in the vein currently witnessed at SFU, but without the support of CUPE 3338.
It is our estimation that, isolated from the employer, the provincial government and its sister unions, the prospect of securing a better deal than this tentative agreement is extremely low, and the probability of having a worse deal imposed upon us high. The choice of whether or not to ratify this agreement is, as always, up to the membership, but considering all the facts, the Executive of CUPE 2278 strongly recommends the membership accept this deal.
11. What have other public sector unions in BC settled for?
- BCGEU, BC Government Employees
- 0,0,2,2, no concessions, liquor distribution privatization cancelled
- CUPE 2950, support workers, secretaries etc. at UBC
- 0,0,2,2 no concessions
- CUPE 116, outside workers and trades at UBC
- 0,0,2,2 no concessions, language preventing privatization, and expanded pension coverage via savings elsewhere in the agreement
- CUPE 4163, the TAs, Lang. Inst. and Sessionals at UVic
- 0,0,1/1,1/1, no concessions, funds going to a Prof. Dev. fund
- Much like our local is using money from delaying the application of the second 1% raise to create a fund for students needing economic hardship help, CUPE 4163 is splitting their 2% wage increases to create a fund for Professional Development. (thus the 0,0,1/1, 1/1)
- 0,0,1/1,1/1, no concessions, funds going to a Prof. Dev. fund
- CUPE 917, outside workers/trades at UVic, CUPE 951, support staff at UVic, & CUPE 4879, support workers at TRU
- 0,0,2,2, no concessions