UVic sessional lecturers reach tentative agreement

VICTORIA— The union representing sessional lecturers at the University of Victoria (UVic) has reached a tentative agreement that addresses low wages and job security.

CUPE 4163 Component 3 reached the agreement after two days of mediation, and months of protracted talks.

“It was a frustrating round of bargaining, but we’re pleased that the mediator was able to help us find common ground and reach an agreement that reflects the respect that our members deserve,” said CUPE 4163 President Greg Melnechuk.

The local represents sessional lecturers and music instructors, who teach 30 per cent of the UVic student population. Like elsewhere, these educators lack job security and have seen class sizes almost double. They also have to reapply for their position every single term. Moreover, their wages are lower than what other public sector locals in B.C. have already received.

“We didn’t get everything we wanted but it’s a good start that we believe goes a long way to improving working conditions for our members,” said Melnechuk.

More details will be made available once ratification has ended.

Local bargaining began on March 6 but after five months of exhaustive sessions, a strike vote was held and concluded on July 24. By August 8, the union and employer hit an impasse. Mediation began on September 18 and a tentative agreement was reached around 8 p.m. on September 19.

CUPE 4163 launches campaign on Victoria buses

VICTORIA – CUPE 4163 Component 3 is shining a light on the University of Victoria’s poor treatment of sessional lecturers — and the impacts on both students and educators — with a public campaign on Victoria’s buses beginning this week.

Lack of job security and low wages have put these educators in a precarious situation. Sessional lecturers and music instructors who teach 30 per cent of students at UVic are low-paid, get very little notice about what courses they’ll be teaching, and need to reapply for their position every single term.

“For term instructors, it can be pretty tough,” said CUPE 4163 President Greg Melnechuk. “And the impact on students definitely limits their educational experience at UVic.”

Some educators have seen class sizes almost double which means that written assignments become eclipsed by quizzes and exams for student assessment. Teaching moments are lost, and student experience is compromised.

“Most people don’t realize that many of the favourite instructors at UVic are actually working under exploitative conditions,” said Melnechuk.

“The irony is that, while sessional instructors are demoralized by the willful neglect shown them by the University, they remain intensely dedicated to the students and the teaching.”

CUPE 4163 Component 3 took a strike vote after five months of exhaustive bargaining sessions but have not served 72-hour notice to take job action. They have no further bargaining dates and expect to go into mediation sometime in September. More information can be found online at 4163.cupe.ca

UVic sessional lecturers and music instructors vote to strike

VICTORIA—With more than 90 per cent in favour, CUPE 4163 Component 3 members voted overwhelmingly to endorse job action at the University of Victoria (UVic). The local has been bargaining with the employer for five months and are frustrated with the lack of progress at the bargaining table. This strike vote by Component 3 is the first ever in their 20-year history.

One of the main issues is the low pay and precarious working conditions that impact student experience at UVic and the amount of support they receive.  

“We are hopeful that we can reach an agreement at the bargaining table and avert any strike or job action in September,” said CUPE 4163 President Greg Melnechuk. “Most of the measures we are asking for are at little or no cost to the University.”

Melnechuk stated that proposals at issue involve basic job security measures that other universities and colleges already have.

CUPE 4163 Component 3 represents approximately 450 sessional lecturers and music performance instructors at the University of Victoria. They teach 30 per cent of all university students at UVic.

The local and employer are expected to return to the bargaining table on August 8, 2019.

“We are committed to working towards a negotiated resolution that fairly addresses the course-by-course precarious working conditions for our members, who are trying to do their best for students,” said Melnechuk.

CUPE 116 members at UBC ratify collective agreement

VANCOUVER­­ — CUPE 116 members working at the University of British Columbia (UBC), ratified a tentative agreement (TA) they reached with the employer on June 9. The ratification vote was completed late Tuesday night with members voting in favour of accepting the TA with a strong majority.

“This was a productive round of bargaining and we were happy to present to our members an agreement that improved both their working conditions and the content of the Collective Agreement,” said CUPE 116 President Dave Lance.

The agreement provides for wage increases of 2 per cent in each year of the agreement and includes retroactive pay.

As well as clarifying and improving existing language, highlights of the agreement include:

  • improved access to benefits and to regular employment for CUPE 116 auxiliary members;
  • development of an Apprenticeship Incentive Fund designed to encourage and facilitate more apprenticeships on campus for CUPE 116 members and provide financial support during their apprenticeship;
  • a pilot project to support sustainable transportation initiatives to help offset commuting costs for lower-earning employees at UBC;
  • increase in the Health Spending Account for members who are on extended health benefits;
  • increased premium for weekends and shiftwork, as well as Gasfitting ticket holders; and
  • new language for leave for the birth or adoption of a new child and domestic violence leave.

CUPE 116 represents approximately 2,500 support staff at UBC. This agreement covers approximately 2,300 of their members who work as tradespeople, technicians, service workers, food service workers and employees who work in the UBC Bookstore, ­­provide campus security, and manage parking. 

The agreement comes into effect when both parties have ratified it. The term of the new agreement is April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2022.

To learn more about CUPE members working in post secondary, visit UniversitiesWork.ca.

CUPE 3799 support workers reach tentative agreement at UNBC

PRINCE GEORGE — CUPE 3799 reached a tentative agreement with the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) on Thursday, June 13. The local began bargaining with UNBC in March.

“We had a great working relationship with the people at the table,” said CUPE 3799 President Caroline Sewell. “I want to recognize the hard work and dedication of the 3799 bargaining committee members, the Bargaining Information Group (BIG), and our National Servicing Representative.”

CUPE National staff representative Mitch Guitard said that a mutually respectful relationship was integral to reaching the settlement. “The employer worked really hard to reach the fair and equitable settlement that we are taking back to our members for ratification,” said Guitard.

Further details of the tentative agreement will not be available until after ratification by all parties, expected to be completed in June.  

CUPE 3799 represents approximately 420 support staff including: recruitment, registration, advising, admin support, IT and AV services, counselling and wellness, groundskeeping, facility maintenance, and much more.  CUPE members work collaboratively with Faculty and non-union staff throughout students’ university experience at UNBC.

UNBC teaching assistants vote to join CUPE

PRINCE GEORGE — Teaching assistants (TAs) at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) voted overwhelmingly to join CUPE 2278 in a Labour Board vote held on Wednesday.

The 76 TAs will now be members of the union local representing teaching assistants and English-language instructors at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

“We are so pleased to welcome these TAs into our local,” said CUPE 2278 First Vice President Gillian Glass. “After years of neglected concerns, they will be represented by a union that understands their work and their issues.”

The local will be negotiating a first collective agreement on behalf of their newest members at UNBC. They are students as well as TAs, so wages are important to their quality of life. Other important issues include hiring fairness and due process, protection from academic harm, and achieving a fair first collective agreement.

“Solidarity among TAs will help make gains for our newest members,” said CUPE 2278 President Laura Bulk. “We look forward to meeting and working with our members from UNBC.”

CUPE 3338 reaches Tentative Agreement with SFU

BURNABY – CUPE Local 3338 representing support staff at Simon Fraser University reached a tentative agreement late on Friday night, ending four long, consecutive days of bargaining.

“I’d like to thank the bargaining committee for their hard work and persistence in reaching this deal,” said CUPE 3338 President Fiona Brady Lenfesty. The groups met to bargain a dozen times in 2015.

The tentative agreement was negotiated within the tight restrictions of the Public Sector Employer’s Council (PSEC) mandate.  Details of the settlement will not be released pending ratification by CUPE 3338 members and the SFU Board of Governors.

CUPE 3338 represents more than 900 lifeguards, clerical, support, library and technical staff at Simon Fraser University’s three campuses in Burnaby, Vancouver and Surrey.


UBC locals call for transparency, openness on Gupta exit


UBC locals call for transparency, openness on Gupta exit

VANCOUVER – In a joint letter to the UBC Board of Governors chair, all three presidents from CUPE locals have raised concerns about the handling of the recent departure of UBC President, Dr. Arvind Gupta.

CUPE 116 President Colleen Garbe was a member of the 22-person selection committee that included unions, faculty, alumni, management and professional staff, students and board members from both the UBC and Okanagan campuses.  The committee did a yearlong global search and made a thoughtful, informed decision collectively.

“We had selected someone — a professor, Canadian, person of colour and internal candidate – and hoped that we had someone with a different style, a breath of fresh air,” said Garbe.

But one year into a five-year term the university president, who is compensated extremely well, left all of a sudden, with no explanation from the Board.

“The public is now aware of the power this Board has to oversee one of our public institutions,” says CUPE 2950 President Karen Ranalletta. “A decision made with due process can be overturned at the stroke of the pen – by an unelected board, the majority of whom are appointed by the BC Liberals.”

Ranalletta notes that UBC is a public institution, one of the three largest research institutions in the country with a significant reputation.  As an alumnus, she says she is embarrassed.  “Where’s the accountability – not only to the public but to staff, students and faculty who make up our campus community – we deserve more than silence.”

The University will continue to pay the departing president’s salary as well as that of an interim president. The compensation for Dr. Gupta as well as the interim president’s salary, the external PR firm handling the media fallout, and the search for a new president is expected to cost millions of dollars.

CUPE 2278 President Trish Everett-Kabut says that the university is in a period of tuition increases and constant hikes to international tuition, and exorbitant increases to student fees.

“You feel like you’re being nickel and dimed to death. Then something happens with our president and suddenly the University can find millions of dollars to deal with the situation – in an age of supposed austerity,” says Everett-Kabut.

“I sure hope that money isn’t coming from anybody who attends UBC or works there – because this is not our mess to clean up,” she says.

The CUPE locals are concerned that the Board has just “accepted” his resignation and given no explanation of what has happened.  As a publicly-funded institution, the Board has a responsibility to the broader community to ensure that UBC’s reputation is “beyond reproach.”

The letter calls on the Board to clarify the real reason for Dr. Gupta’s unexpected resignation and to obey the principles of “openness, transparency and effective communication” as necessary pillars for a respected public institution.

Read the full letter here.

Read Bill Tieleman’s article in the September 1 issue of the Tyee calling for a public inquiry.



Post-secondary bargaining round-up

As the fall session begins on college campuses throughout B.C., bargaining has been completed for all College sector locals (CUPE 15, 1858, 2773, 2081, 3479 and 4951) with the exception of Vancouver Community College (CUPE 4627).

It’s a different story at universities, with some having reached agreements and others heading into or continuing bargaining this fall. University locals that have reached and ratified collective agreements are University of Northern BC (CUPE 3799), University of British Columbia (CUPE 116, 2278 and 2950) and CUPE 4163 Component 3 (Components 1 and 2 still in bargaining) at the University of Victoria.

CUPE 4879 at Thompson Rivers University has filed an application for mediation with the Labour Board. CUPE 3338 at Simon Fraser University is currently at the negotiating table and CUPE 3886 at Royal Roads University will be resuming negotiations soon.

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