A History of CUPE 4163

In September 1997, the University of Victoria was in the midst of a three-year campaign of spending cuts. Two weeks into the fall semester, Teaching Assistants in the departments of Physics and Chemistry received an email notifying them that they would be paid for 14 weeks rather than the previous 17. This amounted to an 18 per cent wage cut.

Where a previous organizing drive in 1992/93 had lacked unity between Arts and Sciences students, failing in the process, the direct attack on the economic well-being of science graduates mobilized this constituency into action. Executives of the Graduate Students’ Society, recently affiliated as Local 89 of the Canadian Federation of Students, took the lead in responding to the Administration’s agenda.

A committee was struck by the Graduate Council to investigate the options available to graduate-student workers. Students from a number of departments participated in the committee, polling grad students on their views toward organizing. It soon became clear grad workers needed a Union to protect their interests as employees, independent of the GSS, with its focus on their role as students. Legal trade unions had been the only organizations capable of obtaining binding contracts with the University, with the exception of the faculty association, which had been recognized after a 17-year battle.

Further, BC’s Labour Relations Board had recently ruled that the number of different unions in any workplace should be limited. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), in the midst of negotiations on behalf of clerical staff in Local 951, and the union of outside workers in Local 917, became the obvious choice. A strike by CUPE 951 employees in late 1997 on the issue of pay equity was narrowly averted after the university’s positions shifted.

It was in this climate that the Graduate Council struck an Organizing Committee, and, on 19 December 1997, Linguistics grad Melissa Svendsen was elected founding president and Physics grad Shawn Bishop founding secretary of CUPE 4163, UVic’s Education Employees Union.

On 8 January 1998 the first Union cards were signed, and roughly 50 cards were turned in every week, with some departments showing 100 per cent support for the Union. The organizing effort was extended to Computing Services (COUS) employees and Second Language Instructors – all UVic workers classified as ‘Specialist / Instructor’. By early March, 61 per cent of eligible members had signed cards.

On 31 March 1998, in a brief, uncontested hearing before the BC Labour Relations Board, CUPE local 4163 was certified as the official bargaining agent for Teaching and Lab Assistants, Language Instructors, and COUS employees at UVic.

In April, a general membership meeting took place, where a constitution was adopted and elections held for the executive committee and contract committee. Negotiations for a first contract with the University began in May 1998. The two sides were unable to reach agreement after months of bargaining, and a final settlement with a five year term was imposed by a mediator. On 22 February 1999, almost a year after negotiations began, CUPE 4163 members had signed their first collective agreement with UVic.

SESSIONALS JOIN THE UNION

Throughout this period, Sessional Instructors grew increasingly dissatisfied with their treatment by the University. An ad hoc Sessional Organizing Committee (SOC) was formed.

A set of Guidelines for Short Term Employment had been adopted by the University in 1996 after two years of negotiations with sessionals. However two months after the conclusion of negotiations, UVic administrators and the Board of Governors refused to appoint a 20-year-veteran of the School of Music to the position of ‘Senior Instructor,’ as stipulated in the Guidelines. The Labour Relations Board (LRB) ruled that the Guidelines did not constitute a collective agreement, and that the faculty association was not the official bargaining agent for sessional instructors.

The SOC approached the UVic Faculty Association, requesting full voting rights for sessionals – a prerequisite for certification by the LRB. However the Association voted down a proposed amendment to its constitution including sessionals as full members. A wedge had been driven between UVic instructors along the line of tenure, in a sense, dividing the “haves” from the “have-nots.”

The “have-nots” decided to form a Union.

In January 1999, a year after TAs organized, sessional instructors began signing union cards to form ‘Component 3’ of CUPE 4163. Sessionals at 11 other Canadian universities were already CUPE members, and by June, UVic’s Sessionals were certified. They signed their first collective agreement on 20 December 2000.

SOLIDARITY AND POLITICAL ACTION

With legal recognition by the Province and the University, CUPE 4163 entered a new round of contract negotiations in 2002 and 2003. This occurred in a changed political climate, where the right to free collective bargaining was being threatened by a government intent on privatization and weakening the power of organized workers. In the spring of 2002, CUPE BC called for a Solidarity Vote of all locals based on the principle that “an injury to one is an injury to all.” This move was supported by 90 per cent of CUPE 4163 members.

A year later, the Union again endorsed the idea of sympathetic job action to support striking workers. Teaching Assistants at UBC were in the midst of a three-week strike against their employer, and the BC Liberals responded by legislating away their right to strike. The TAs defied this legislation, blockading their campus with the backing of other campus unions. CUPE 4163 and other BC unions voted to take sympathetic action if a contract was imposed by the government. In the end, a mediator was appointed and UBC TAs won an 11 per cent wage increase.

At UVic, Sessional instructors successfully worked within a government-mandated wage freeze and signed their second Collective Agreement in March 2003. Members voted 98 per cent in favour of this contract, which included higher wages for most by adding an aditional step to the pay scale, and increased job security for many, by reworking the formulas for ‘long service’ status.

Components One and Two entered negotiations with UVic in the summer of 2003; TAs were demanding “wage parity with UBC and SFU.” This round of negotiations called on CUPE 4163 to test its organizational muscle for the first time. Members participated in a work-to-rule campaign and a ‘traffic slow-down’ in January 2004. Although TAs failed to achieve their goal of wage parity, the student TAs were awarded guaranteed fellowship money. Component Two members were successful in gaining wage increases, and recognition for some as full-time continuous employees entitled to a range of benefits. Members voted 78 per cent in favour of this contract, although it did not include across the board wage increases.

While much work remains to be done, in the last seven years significant strides have been made toward the recognition and fair compensation of a previously ignored body of workers at the University of Victoria. These initial victories will have to be built upon in the years ahead.

updated June 8, 2005

 Our Certifications

Components 1 & 2 Certification

BRITISH COLUMBIA
LABOUR RELATIONS BOARD

CERTIFICATION
The LABOUR RELATIONS BOARD, being satisfied the employees named herein constitute a unit appropriate for collective bargaining and that all necessary requirements of the Labour Relations Code are met
HEREBY CERTIFIES
Canadian Union of Pubiic Employees, Local 4163
as the bargaining agent for the employees in a unit composed of

term academic support employees assisting in specialized or instructional activities including: laboratory assistants, laboratory instructors; junior research assistants, research assistants; junior scientific assistants, scientific assistants; assistant coaches, junior athletic assistants, athletic assistants, supervisors – sports camps; (SI) Programmers – Computing (Non-PEA); second language teachers and cultural assistants. This bargaining unit specifically excepts: continuing specialist instructional employees transferring into PEA April 1, 1998, and any new continuing (PEA) laboratory instructor, academic assistant, and scientific assistant positions established thereafter; daycare (early childhood education) staff; practicum supervisors; non-credit course instructors (other than second language teachers); S/I co-operative education employees; summer assistants, best matches assistants; (non-university employees) research and academic assistants and others employed under externally funded specific purpose grants or employment contracts; employees appointed full and part-time as Faculty or professional librarians, and employees holding positions already represented by the Professional Employees Association (PEA), CUPE Local 917, or CUPE Local 951

and those excluded by the Code, employed by
University of Victoria
Room 159, Sedgewick Building
Victoria BC
Given at Vancouver, British Columbia, this 31st day of March, A.D. 1998.
LABOUR RELATIONS BOARD

MARK BROWN
Vice-Chair

 

COMPONENT 3 Certification

BRITISH COLUMBIA
LABOUR RELATIONS BOARD

CERTIFICATION
The LABOUR RELATIONS BOARD, being satisfied the employees named herein constitute a unit  appropriate for collective bargaining and that all necessary requirements of the Labour Relations Code are met
HEREBY CERTIFIES
Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 4163
as the bargaining agent for the employees ii a unit composed of
employees appointed to term positions with principal responsibility for teaching and grading credit courses, as Music Performance Instructors or Sessional Lecturers at the University of Victoria, except:
1 . all tenured and tenure track faculty, Senior Instructors, and Professional Librarians;
2.  all administrative and academic professional employees;
3. all visiting faculty who hold a tenured position at another University and are appointed as Sessional Lecturers;
4.  persons teaching a credit course under a contract with another employer;
5.  persons holding a Sessional Lecturer appointment – with zero salary, or whose salary  is paid in whole or in part by another employer, or whose salary is not paid on the Sessional Lecturer seven step scale, or who teach outside of the Province of British Columbia;

and, further, except employees who are members of and represented by the Professional Employees Association (PEA), CUPE Local 917, or CUPE Local 951
and those excluded by the Code, employed by
University of Victoria
Room 159, Sedgewick Building
Victoria SC

Given at Vancouver, British Columbia, this 1 st day of June, A.D. 1999,
LABOUR RELATIONS BOARD
JOHN HALL

Vice-Chair

Past Newsletters

In the past, CUPE 4163 has published newsletters for its members. You can download PDFs of them below.

In_Session_winter_2008

In Session_Summer_2007_small

IN SESSION_Summer_2006

Fall_2005_Newsletter

newsletter spring 2005 – sessionals

CUPE 4163 News Spring 2005

newsletter fall 2004

newsletter summer 2004

newsletter spring 2004