CGEU Statement in Solidarity With CUPE 4163

Informing, attendees of CGEU 2019 that members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees local no. 4163 (hereafter: “CUPE 4163” or “4163”) are presently in bargaining with their employer, the University of Victoria (hereafter: UVic), and that graduate workers comprise the bulk of 4163’s Component 1 (Teaching Assistants).

Noting, that members of 4163’s Component 1 are amongst the most poorly compensated graduate workers in Canada, with a Junior pay rate of $15.63 and a Senior pay rate of $25.78 – as of July 1, 2019. Further, that the employer is under no obligation to reveal the means by which they classify a position as either Junior or Senior.

Noting, that UVic has drastically increased tuition fees from 2017 to 2019, resulting in increases on international graduate students’ tuition of nearly 10% or more. Noting further, that UVic has justified these increases in order to make its tuition commensurate with what it considers to be its most similar institutions: the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University (SFU). 

Noting, that despite their employer’s professed desire to extract tuition from them at a rate commensurate with UBC and SFU, graduate workers in CUPE 4163 are compensated at rate that is at best 71% the hourly pay of their comrades in CUPE 2278 (UBC) and the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) (SFU) and that as a consequence of the Junior pay rate, members of 4163 may be compensated at less than 45%.

Noting, that the executive members of both CUPE 2278 and TSSU have acknowledged the severity of this disparity and have expressed their public solidarity with CUPE 4163’s efforts to have it rectified.

Stressing, that the province of British Columbia’s “Public Sector Bargaining Mandates & Agreements” bars public sector unions from negotiating wage increases that exceed 2% per annum. Further, that this prohibition takes no account of the fiscal situation of the unions employers. 

Stressing, that UVic has posted multi-million dollar budgetary surpluses in recent years. 

Stressing, that largely as a consequence of the housing crisis in British Columbia, yearly inflation is well in excess of 2%.

Noting, that the present round of bargaining for 4163 is the first in nearly two decades to be conducted under a government that is ostensibly friendly towards labour and stressing that this fact requires bold action and strong demands.

Reaffirming, that the CGEU’s theme for Conference 2019 is “Building Solidarity Across Movements.” 4163’s success in bargaining for wage parity with its sibling unions at UBC and SFU represents and requires a dramatic overhaul of the province’s Bargaining Mandates & Agreements. Such a success has the potential to benefit all public sector workers – and, by extension, all workers – in British Columbia.

Reaffirming, that the CGEU’s commitment social unionism is enhanced by supporting its member unions’ bargaining processes – especially in instances where those processes represent a substantial potential to reorient collective bargaining as a whole.

Therefore, be it resolved that the Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions:

1) Stands in solidarity with the graduate workers of CUPE 4163 in their bargaining process;

2) Affirms CUPE 4163’s commitments to seeking wage parity with graduate workers at UBC and SFU as expressed in 4163’s bargaining principles and in the statements of solidarity expressed by their sibling unions CUPE 2278 and TSSU;

3) Calls upon the province of British Columbia to recognize the precarity of graduate workers, to make more serious and sustained commitments to higher education in the province, and to ensure that those commitments have labour justice for graduate workers as a foundational principle. Further, the CGEU calls upon the province of British Columbia to ensure those previous commitments across all areas, faculties, and disciplines of academic work;

4) Encourages the province of British Columbia to reconsider or abandon its imposed limitations on public sector unions, as such limits stifle the demands and achievements of working people as a whole.