Why did postdocs want to join CUPE?
What is collective bargaining?
What are the membership cards for?
Did forming a union cause us to pay more taxes?
When do we pay dues and how are they used?
Who runs the union?
I am an international scholar.  Can I join the union?

Why did postdocs want to join CUPE?

University of Toronto administrators determine many postdoc employment issues beyond the control of funding sources, PIs, and research groups.  Almost all other employees at the University of Toronto are represented.  They engage in collective bargaining with the administration, enjoy better benefits, and are protected by their unions or bargaining agents.  Postdocs were the only group of academics at the University of Toronto who did not have a collective bargaining agent.

What is collective bargaining?

Collective bargaining is a process that equalizes the power relationship between employees and their employer.  With collective bargaining, elected postdoc representatives survey postdocs to determine their priorities and then negotiate a contract with the administration.  They negotiate for improvements in wages, hours, benefits, and terms and conditions of employment.  Postdocs can decide what is best for themselves, their families, and their research, and bring these issues to the table.  Collective bargaining is also democratic process.   Postdocs will have an opportunity to democratically approve the agreement that the bargaining team reaches with the University of Toronto before it becomes a binding contract.

A contract is enforced by a grievance procedure, ending with binding arbitration before a neutral third party, rather than the University of Toronto administration, as is currently the case for non-unionized postdocs. Without a contract, the administration has the unilateral ability to decide and change wages, benefits, and working conditions – and has done so in the past without notice.

Before there was a collective agreement, many postdocs would know the terms and conditions of their appointment when they accepted their positions, only to have them suddenly change without notice.

That is the problem with unilaterally imposed policies – they can always be changed.  A collective agreement has to be bargained.

What are the membership cards for?

If you’re a U of T funded postdoc, you’re automatically in the Unit 5 Collective Agreement. However, to be able to vote in membership meetings, run for elected union positions and be eligible for CAUT benefits, you have to sign a union membership card.

You can do this at any union event, by coming into the office (180 Bloor Street West, 8th floor), or by contacting vc5@cupe3902.org.

Did forming a union cause us to pay more taxes?

No.  Unionization does not impact the amount of tax you have to pay.  Revenue Canada has determined that postdoc income is taxable when the Ontario Labour Relations Board determined that postdocs are employees. All postdocs across Canada, regardless of whether they are unionized or not, have to pay taxes.

How are dues used?

Unions are not-for-profit organizations, the amount of dues charged is related to how much it costs to provide services to the members.  Dues rates are set by the membership in a meeting and then put out to a secret-ballot vote of the entire membership.  Current dues for CUPE 3902 are 2.45% of salary subject to replenishment of the Local’s Strike and Defence Fund as per the Local’s  bylaws:  http://cupe3902.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Local-Bylaws-2015_04_09-National-approved.pdf.

Dues are decreasing to 2.65% (from 2.75%) effective November 1, 2015 because our Local’s Strike and Defence Fund balance has just gone above $600,000.  This will be first seen on paycheques at the end of November 2015.

Dues support a variety of resources that equalize power with the employer and enable the union to represent their members. These include educational, legal, organizing, negotiating and other representational services.

Who runs the union?

Local unions in CUPE have democratic control over their activities.  Members of CUPE 3902 decide, at regular meetings, on issues that are important to the local and the membership.  The local is run by officers that are elected by the members.

I am an international scholar.  Can I join the union?

Yes.  International scholars have the same rights to join and participate as Canadian citizens.  In many years of representing international student workers at University of Toronto and elsewhere, no one has reported any complications in their status from unionizing.  International scholars have been part of CUPE 3902 since its founding in 1975.  Many of our local Chairs, executive officers and stewards have been from other countries. At the bargaining table, CUPE 3902 has fought long and hard to gain benefits that specifically benefit our international members.