Bargaining teams representing student workers—Local 3908 Unit 2 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE 3908)—and Trent University’s administration reached a tentative agreement at around 4am Friday morning after 18 hours of bargaining.
The union was in a legal striking position as of midnight, but both teams were willing to keep bargaining for four hours to reach a deal.
“It wasn’t until about 5am that we got everything signed,” said Phil Abbott, Vice-President of Unit 2 and a member of CUPE’s bargaining team.
CUPE 3908 President Stephen Horner characterized it as a “tough” round of bargaining.
In a release, the union blamed underfunding on the part of the Ontario government as the source of difficulty, but maintained “that Trent’s lowest-paid workers shouldn’t be made to pay the price for a lack of funding.”
“We hope this round of bargaining emphasized to Trent’s administration how important student worker issues are,” said Horner.
In the release he stated “we believe that the modest gains of the agreement reflect the determination of members to protect decent working conditions.”
Abbott mentioned that Unit 2’s “big focus was around wages.” As reported previously in Arthur, the university had been pushing for a two year wage freeze for Unit 2 members. In the release, the union confirmed that it avoided this freeze.
Unit 2 primarily represents graduate student workers at Trent, but there are a significant portion of undergraduate markers, teaching, lab, and research assistants represented as well. “Everyone in the unit is a student of some sort” said Abbott. The union represents 350 members.
In a press release sent by Trent’s Communications Manager Kathryn Verhulst-Rogers, Trent University said it was “pleased to share that a tentative settlement has been reached” and that “classes, labs, and operations will continue as scheduled.”
Because the agreement is subject to ratification by Trent, no one representing the administration can comment further.
At this time, it’s unclear when the ratification vote will happen for either group.
Trent’s administration needs the union to ratify it first before they can do so. CUPE’s bargaining team hasn’t scheduled the vote yet, but they expect it will happen in mid-March.
The tentative agreement comes at a time when several other universities student teaching unions were at the bargaining table. CUPE 3902 Unit 1—representing contract faculty at the University of Toronto—reached a tentative agreement with their employer, also several hours past their strike deadline on Friday morning. However, the membership rejected the deal and that unit is now on strike.
CUPE 3903 at York University, also representing teaching assistants and contract faculty, has set a strike deadline for Tuesday March 3. They have not yet reached a deal with their employer.