Monday, November 19, 2007

Why I am Joining the Work to Rule Action

Dear ENVS/SOSC 4041.6 students,

This is a letter to inform you that I am currently participating in a work-to-rule campaign launched by my union, CUPE 3903.

During the summer term, FGS stepped up their attack on the quality of education at York University, which has had a direct and negative impact upon the work and learning environment on campus. Specifically, Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) unilaterally cut the summer needs-based bursary program, which many members of CUPE 3903 financially depend upon in the summer months. This bursary was never a “gift” given by FGS to student-workers, but was fought for and won in response to the imposition of radically increased summer tuition fees in the mid-90s. Although a small portion of the bursary has been brought back under increasing pressure by student-workers on campus, it currently pales in comparison to its historical levels, and CUPE 3903 calls for its full retroactive return. Not only is the summer bursary program under attack, but the fall/winter needs-based bursary is also being severely underfunded in comparison to historical levels in order to create second-rate scholarship-based funding packages for incoming graduate students, packages that will take away the valuable benefits (health, dental, tuition rebate, etc.) currently enjoyed by members of CUPE 3903. CUPE 3903 calls on FGS and York University to retroactively fully fund the summer bursary, and to guarantee both the summer and fall/winter needs based bursary at a level that is suited to the real needs of student-workers at York University in the future, as indicated by the student-workers themselves.

While FGS and York University continue to under-fund and attempt to take away the hard won gains made by the student-workers on campus, FGS is attempting to simultaneously institute and expand a “Times to Completion” document that institutes prohibitive and punitive measures in order to rush as many graduate students through the doors of York University as possible in a shameless cash grab at provincial funding. Without thought for the real needs of graduate education as indicated by worker and student groups on campus - an increase in funding, increased numbers of faculty, increased numbers of staff, etc. - FGS and York University are unilaterally undermining the education and workplace of students and workers on campus. Rather than job cuts to experienced Unit 2 teaching assistant and tutor positions in order to haphazardly expand graduate enrollment, and cutting Unit 3 graduate assistants and Unit 1 teaching assistants in favour of paltry scholarship offers, CUPE 3903 insists that FGS and York University must meet its obligation to providing a sustainable quality education and work environment on campus.

In order to further pressure the York Administration to fulfill its obligations, I will be engaging in an escalating work to rule campaign beginning on November 19th, 2007. To begin and as per my rights in my collective agreement, I will be refraining from using internet communication with respect to all work conducted. I recognize that this may place you in a difficult situation. It is also true that the employer will likely claim that members of CUPE 3903 are violating their contractual obligations to York, and are engaged in an illegal job action, although it is clearly stated in my Collective Agreement that I am in no way whatsoever required to use e-mail communication pertaining to work matters. Only the Ontario Labour Relations Board can rule on the legality of this job action and the CUPE 3903 Executive has received extensive legal advice around this campaign and has been advised of its legality.

While admittedly, and intentionally, disruptive, it is paramount that everyone involved recognize that these actions are not being directed towards individual students. CUPE 3903 is undertaking this campaign in part to insure and create a genuine quality educative experience for both undergraduate and graduate students.

I will do my best to keep you posted on developments as they unfold, as well as any escalating job action that may be taken. I very much hope that there will be a timely and favourable resolution to this issue. Questions and comments may be directed to


Marcelo Vieta
Member, CUPE 3903

For more on CUPE 3903's work-to-rule campaign, go here.

No comments: