Background: CUPE 3902 and Postdocs

CUPE 3902 has a long history of representing and working with postdocs at the University of Toronto.  Indeed, postdocs who teach have been a part of the union since 1975, and have enjoyed the benefits of each Unit 1 collective agreement since that time.  While postdocs who teach are a small number of people, they are an important group, and CUPE 3902 has always resisted any attempt by the University to marginalize our postdoctoral teachers or to limit their ability to participate in teaching.  In fact, our efforts have resulted in the creation of a number of new teaching postdoc positions.

In 2008, postdocs at the University of Toronto approached CUPE 3902 with the hope of forming a union so they would have representation for the other work they do on campus.  Concerned about what they were experiencing in their labs, departments, and research institutes, they launched an organizing drive.  In 2009, after many months of signing union cards and reaching out to postdocs on campus, an application for certification was filed with the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

The University of Toronto challenged this application.  The administration argued that postdocs were not employees, and so were not entitled to unionize.

The Ontario Labour Relations Board disagreed.

Indeed, in 2012, after more than 2 years of deliberations and hearings, the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled unequivocally that postdocs at the University of Toronto are employees and entitled to unionize.  They are entitled to bargain collectively with their employer, and negotiate the terms and conditions under which they work.

This precedent setting decision set off a wave of postdoc unionization in Ontario, and a renewed the unionization drive at the University of Toronto.

Over several months, the postdoc organizing committee reached out to postdocs at the University of Toronto to hear their concerns and issues, asked them to sign union cards, and engaged them in the new drive for unionization.  Successfully, the first ever U of T postdoc collective agreement was negoatiated and signed in early 2014, and postdocs became the newest unit – Unit 5 – of  CUPE 3902.

Relevant Documents from 2013 unionizing drive:

Welcome Postdocs 2014 – letter from the 2014 Chair Abe Nasirzadeh, welcoming postdocs to the union

Letter from the University of Toronto Faculty Association regarding PI neutrality in the postdoc unionizing campaign.

Chart from 2013, comparing U of T postdocs with other Canadian Unionized postdocs.

Letter from Attorney Richard Blair on the employment status of postdocs (from the precedent-setting 2012 legal challenge).

For more information about the Ontario Labour Relations Board decision, see: