Hi YUSA Members,
We’ve been doing a lot in the union office and I wanted to let you know a bit about what we’ve been up to so far this year.
We’ve been filing a lot of grievances! At this date last year we had filed 18 grievances. This year we have already filed 56 grievances.
The grievances have been for a number of issues, but for example; All three full-time officers (Myself, Wanda and Breanne) have been meeting regularly to review every single CPM job that is posted and if we find positions that we feel should be YUSA positions we are filing grievances to have them brought back into the bargaining unit.
Article 12 (Job Posting) reports
In Article 12 (Job Posting) the employer is required to give the union a great deal of information and reports regarding job postings (when jobs are posted, when postings are cancelled or extended, when postings are filled, etc.) There are also set timelines within which this information must be given to the union. YUSA 2nd VP, Breanne Whitwell reviewed this data this year and it became apparent that in many cases the employer wasn’t giving us this information at all, or when they were it was often far past the timeline required in the collective agreement. We filed a grievance in regards to this and since the filing of that grievance this information has been coming to the union office in a much more fulsome and timely manner. We continue to monitor to ensure the employer is in compliance with the terms of the collective agreement.
Unit 2 Bargaining
We’ve resumed bargaining of the Unit 2 contract! As we said in our bargaining update, we’ve made it a priority this year to get a fair contract and better compensation for our Unit 2 members. This is important first and foremost because our Unit 2 members benefit directly, but secondarily it benefits Unit 1 because it makes it less attractive to replace Unit 1 jobs with Unit 2 jobs.
It’s a sad fact that our Unit 2 members are some of the lowest compensated employees in the university. The food service workers in Aramark cafeterias start at $15 per hour, but Unit 2 pay starts at minimum wage of only $14 per hour.
While the University of Toronto and other institutions have decided to pay all workers at least $15 per hour, York University shamefully has no issues with paying staff minimum wage which is nowhere close to a living wage for an expensive city to live in like Toronto.
Unit 1 Job Rating
We continue to work with the employer to move the Unit 1 Job rating process to an electronic format that is AODA compliant. The project to update the benchmarks which are used to rate jobs is ongoing, and as we negotiated in the last round of bargaining, we will be establishing a joint committee to examine the Unit 1 rating process and see if any improvements can be made. YUSA 1st VP, Wanda Hollingshead has been involved in all of these Job Evaluation related issues and she’s available to help if you need any assistance with job evaluation issues.
Unit 2 Job Rating
We are setting up a committee to rate Unit 2 jobs and ensure that they are being assigned to pay bands correctly. This is something that hasn’t been done for years and I’ve made it a priority this year to get this going. It’s important that we do this so that we can ensure that our Unit 2 members are being paid correctly. We’ve scheduled training and hope to have the committee up and running this month.
We have had a joint training day for our stewards and are creating teams of stewards to specialize in subject matter areas. The first team we have created will deal with Attendance Management Program meetings. We will be delivering specific training on the AMP program to the stewards this quarter. We are set to have our trained stewards in the field representing members in AMP program meetings next quarter. If your manager is calling an AMP program meeting for you, please be sure you contact the union office so we can arrange to have a steward with you in the meeting.
We have filed a number of grievances regarding benefits coverage.
First, we’ve grieved the “reasonable and customary” limit that Sun Life informed our members was being imposed for orthotics of $550 per pair. Subsequent to our filing of that grievance the employer advised us that there was no reasonable and customary limit of $550 for orthotics and that that message was sent to YUSA members in error.
We have also grieved the fact that the employer has made the orthotics coverage a “rolling date” meaning that your $2000 coverage date beings on the day you purchase orthotics. This is not what we had agreed to in bargaining and unless you buy your orthotics precisely once every two years, this effectively decreases the benefit for our members. We have a similar grievance related to compression stockings.
YUTA – YUTA (York University Temporary Agency) contracts are intended to be 3 months long. If there are exceptional circumstances, then the employer can ask for an extension to these contracts but YUSA must grant such a request. I’ve been scrutinizing these contract extension requests very closely and if there is not a valid reason for the extension request then I have been denying these requests. I’m doing this because I don’t want the employer to be circumventing posting jobs as Unit 1 jobs (which have better pay, and benefits and pension) by using YUTA placements and then extending and extending these positions.
Also if we become aware that the employer is putting in a rotating cast of YUTAs to do the same work to circumvent the 3-month limit will grieve. If you know about this happening, please let us know!
Unit 1 – I’ve also been asking for rationales for the extension of Unit 1 contracts. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for extending contracts, but if there is not there have been cases where these extension requests have been denied. In cases where the employer just posts another Unit 1 contract we have been grieving. My position is, if there is continuing work, it should be posted as a continuing position with better job security, not as a temporary contract.
In many cases, the employer will say that they need to post the position as a temporary contract because they don’t know if they will have funding for the position in the future or because the “department is re-evaluating its needs”. If we accept these rationales then the employer could make pretty much EVERY YUSA position a temporary contract, because really there is never any 100% guarantee that there will be funding in the future, and departments are pretty much always reassessing their needs.
If someone has been doing a job for year after year after year after year, in my opinion, that’s probably not a “temporary” position and it shouldn’t be posted as such. The employer likes to post positions as temporary contracts because then when the contract ends they don’t have to give the YUSA member any of the job security provisions under Article 15 such as priority placement where they have to try to find the YUSA member another job, nor do they have to give them a paid notice period during which they receive their full salary and benefits, which can be up to one year depending on how much seniority the member has.
There have been cases recently where employees who have been doing a contract job for years have applied again for their own job when the contract is reposted and have been told they didn’t do well enough in the interview, so the job they are currently working in was being given to someone else. For all of you YUSA members in continuing positions, imagine that you had to reapply for your own job every couple of years, and then imagine being told: “Sorry you didn’t do well enough on the interview so the job you were in is being given to someone else.”
If we keep letting this employer turn continuing positions into temporary contracts then we become a disposable workforce with no job security! This leads to members who are afraid to assert their rights because their manager could unilaterally decide to end their contract early (something that has happened to a number of our members).
That’s not something I want to let happen on my watch folks, so we are looking at this very carefully and we’ve already started filing grievances regarding this issue and turning our minds to how we can address this in the next round of bargaining.
Dealing with all of these issues take a lot of time. We are implementing some big, strategic initiatives that are really important, but also really time-consuming. Each of those grievances requires a lot of prep work and documentation. Reviewing all the reports we are getting from the employer and every CPM job posting requires time and analysis.
Something has to give, and I know I have not been as quick to respond to emails as I have been in previous years and if you’ve emailed me and I’ve been slow in responding I apologize for that. I’m hoping that as we get more stewards trained up and representing members in meetings this will help balance the load and, in the meantime, I’m working as hard as I can to respond to everyone as quickly as possible.
The current Provincial government is creating a difficult environment for unionized workers across the province, but especially for public sector unions like ours. There have already been significant budget cuts to the university. Most of the gains workers achieved under Bill 148 have already been repealed by the current government. This has already had directly impacted our membership. For example, our Unit 2 members have lost their 3 paid sick days per year.
YUSA along with all of the other unions on campus have signed onto a joint letter calling on President Lenton and the university to set an example and continue to honour the provisions of Bill 148, however we have not yet received any response.
There will likely be legislation put forward in the coming months that will limit the compensation increases for most workers in the broader public sector. We don’t know all the details yet but as the legislation is put forward, we will keep you updated. YUSA 2nd VP Breanne Whitwell recently attended a consultation with the Ministry of Labour where we joined our voices with other unions in opposition to any such limits to compensation increases.
Despite these challenges, this is not the time for us to back down. The legislation that affects us often swings like a pendulum with one government coming in an eroding the rights of workers until another government comes in and enhances those rights. Right now, we are experiencing the former, but our job right now is to stand our ground to maintain the rights and protections this union has struggled for over 40 years to achieve. We are working hard to do this and achieve gains where we can. Our strength is our solidarity, both with each other within this union, and with our allies across the university, city, province and country.
York University Staff Association