We express our solidarity and support to the Take Back 3913 campaign! in their just demands for a fairer union for its members and the staff.
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Source: Take Back 3913! You can read this original post in here
Are you a Teaching Assistant (TA) or Sessional Lecturer at the University of Guelph or U of G-Humber? Did you know that our current Executive Committee has created a crisis to make big cuts to member services?
You may have seen a letter recently circulated by the CUPE 3913 Executive, where they try to shift the blame to the office staff. Don’t believe it. This crisis came about when the Executive attacked the rights of staff members, not the other way ’round. And it was compounded by the Executive’s drive to cut dues by more than 16%.
As CUPE 3913 members and allies, we want to shed some light on this controversy by answering comments made by the Executive Committee in their November 5 statement to members:
They say…”Your union is in crisis. The Executive Committee is struggling to keep the Local running under immense pressure from the union that represents our staff”
- Over the past two years, the Exec has laid off workers, eliminated positions, and restructured the office by reducing the services provided by staff (as defined in their Collective Agreement). This has brought about a real crisis in services.
- The Exec pushed a massive dues cut from 3.1% to 2.6% (reducing the local’s income by more than $90,000 per year) without a request from the membership.
- The Exec has renovated our office at a cost estimated between $40,000 and $50,000 — and by cutting services, they have effectively turned it into a private lounge for themselves.
- We also have to wonder why the Exec has chosen to offer departmental stewards $100 per month (potentially adding up to $57,600 per year on the Guelph campus alone) if CUPE 3913 is in a financial crisis. We aren’t necessarily against these payments, but they don’t seem consistent with the Exec’s claims.
They say… “A significant portion (almost 40%) of your dues are used to pay staff at the Local (wages, benefits, etc.) – these costs do not include expenses associated with settling and arbitrating grievances (projected to be more than $50,000 in this fiscal year)”
- There is only one staff left in the office whose cost for 3913 would be around $68,000 per year. Even after the recent dues cut, the union still receives about $500,000 per year on dues alone. The only staff left in the office costs less than 14% of your dues.
- It is typical for non-profits and social justice organizations to spend 40% of income in salaries. That’s how services are provided.
- Staff is hired to provide training, participate in meetings, advise members, address grievances and answer or solve member questions. This is why we pay dues, not for private lounges or Exec perks.
- If costs for lawyers and arbitrators are mounting, the solution is to treat staff respectfully and settle the grievances fairly and reasonably.
They say… “A staff member has been on paid vacation for over a year and has collected more than $100,000 in leave and vacation since October 2013”
- One long-serving staff person has indeed been on leave. Publicly criticizing employees for accessing their rights is a serious breach of employer obligations to confidentiality.
- We wouldn’t accept the University of Guelph pointing the finger at us and accusing us of costing them too much money if we take an approved leave. Why are our elected representatives failing to uphold the same principle for our staff members?
They say... “The union that represents our staff has filed a number of grievances over the past year which have made it extremely difficult to keep the Local functioning properly”
The Exec is implying that these are spurious grievances. We have not seen anything that leads us to believe this is the case.
While volunteering at the office or serving on committees, we HAVE seen staff struggling to do their work under very difficult conditions. Several members have witnessed denigrating behaviour by some Executive members towards staff, which includes sharp language, intentionally ignoring, and behind-closed-doors unconstructive criticism.
The public email from the Exec shows the way the Exec treats staff: criticisms of one staff member for taking an approved leave, disclosing that another staff member filed a harassment grievance, and suggesting that this and other grievances are spurious. If anything, this behaviour suggests the opposite of the Exec’s claim is more likely to be true.
They say… “Members of the Executive Committee, in their view, have been intimidated and bullied by CUPE Local 1281.”
- Several of us, at CUPE 3913 have witnessed the opposite. We have repeatedly observed arrogant attitudes and a dismissive demeanor that has created a toxic work environment at the office and at various committee meetings.
They say… “Unfortunately, at our recent Fall Membership Meeting (FMM) on October 22 we were not able to maintain quorum long enough to share this information with our members”
- The meeting took place with quorum for about 90 minutes before a new quorum call indicated that not enough members were still in attendance. (In our sector, it is a common practice to continue the meeting to the end after first confirming quorum.)
- At no point was any of the Exec’s “information” brought to the floor — neither during the approval of the agenda nor when amendments were made to the agenda.
- During the FMM, the discussion on reports was deliberately prolonged by the Exec. One member of the Executive chose to indicate the lack of quorum at the precise moment when the critical proposal of the Executive to defer negotiations with the Employer was about to be discussed.
They say… “An unfortunate and complicated conflict of interest continues to exist between CUPE locals 1281 and 3913 because both are members of CUPE – CUPE National will not intervene despite several pleas from our Local for their assistance.”
- The expectation that CUPE National will help CUPE 3913 in its managerial role shows how little this Exec understands what unions are about.
- This conflict has had a tremendous detrimental impact on the majority of us: inaccessible office, reduction of resources, cuts to member services, poor management of staff, and increased perks for a handful of officials.
It’s time for members to take Local 3913 back from them and make it work again.
- The CUPE 3913 executive is wasting time and resources attacking staff and their union, when we are one year away from bargaining with U of G. This manufactured crisis diverts the resources away from negotiating a good contract for CUPE 3913 members.
- Staff and Executive should work together to best represent the members in its relation to the university.
With no staff in the office right now, who is addressing grievances, advising members, and conducting research?
Here’s what you can do:
- To get more information & become involved with the campaign contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us in twitter @TakeBack_3913, or visit us at https://takeback3913.wordpress.com/
- Inform yourself, be critical, plan to attend and bring your TA and Sessional friends to the Members’ Meeting on November 17, 2015, 5:30-8:30pm