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CAUT Bulletin Archives

February 2015

uToronto postdocs ratify first contract

After years of struggle for a union and 10 months of negotiations, including 12 hours of conciliation at the ministry of labour Dec. 10, post­doctoral fellows at the University of Toronto have ratified their first collective agreement by a margin of 72 per cent.

“The agreement brings significant enhancements to postdoctoral working conditions at the University of Toronto,” said Supriya Syal, out­going vice-chair of CUPE 3902, the union representing the 800 internally-funded postdocs covered by the contract. “It provides a strong foundation for successive collective agreements at the UofT and is likely to elevate standards across the nation.”

On wages, the contract will bring $3,500 in increases over two years to the minimum salary. In addition, members will receive lump sum payments of $600 for 2015 and $200 for 2016. The contract will also result in additional days of paid time off plus an increase in employer contributions to the health care plan and supplements the Employment Insurance benefits postdocs are eligible to apply for during pregnancy and parental leaves.

“Our historic first collective agreement brings not only immediate gains and combined strength to win further gains in the future, but also adds compelling non-monetary gains in workplace protections that aim to address the precarious nature of postdoctoral academic work, and brings postdocs some of the same rights and protections as other academic workers,” said Dr. Syal.

The vote to ratify comes six years after the postdocs began an organizing drive that set off a protracted battle with the employer who argued that postdoctoral scholars were not employees, but rather “academic trainees.” The Ontario Labour Relations Board in 2012, in a precedent-setting ruling, held that postdocs at the U of T were employees and en­titled to unionize.

The contract will be finalized over the next few weeks, once the univer­sity’s governing council votes to ratify the agreement.