On September 27th, CUPE 3908s’ second unit reached a 4 year agreement with Trent University that secured increases in wages for 350 academic workers at Trent University. Most of the members of this union are graduate teaching assistants, although members are also student makers, academic assistants, and computer lab advisors. CUPE 3908 has represented this group of academic workers for close to 20 years.
The discourse around decline of unions in North America can cover up the the good work that unions still do the workers that they represent. Although the decline of unions is indisputable, so too is the benefits that they provide to their members. So here are the things that CUPE 3908 secured in the most recent round of labour negotiations.
Incremental Wage Increases
Over the next 4 years, wages for academic workers will increase 1.5% over the first 3, and 1.85% in the final year in 2021. Too some this may seem to be aggressive, but percentage increases in wages must be addressed in the context of inflation.
Inflation is the rate at which the price of stuff (stuff defined as the things you buy) rises. This means that the actual worth of one’s wage declines. Inflation is the reason why Arizona ice tea now costs $1.50, despite 99 cent logo on the can.
Because of this, those looking at increases in wages need to understand that wages increase to maintain standards of living enjoyed by workers, not to increase those standards. The Bank of Canada tries to keep annual inflation at a rate of 2%.
More Professional Development
CUPE 3908 has a professional development fund. This fund can be applied to by academic workers to do things like conferences, and extracurricular research. This is important because no one is a finished product, and employers should care about levelling up their employees.
The development fund prior to negotiations was $20,000, it will be increased to 25,000, and then increased to $27,000 after year four of the agreement. When divided by the 350 members, the former 20,000 amounts to $57 per member. After the 4 years this will be approximately $75 per member.
Labour negotiations can seem like a thing of the past, but it’s important that we track the never-ending give and take between labour and employers.