CUPE Ontario Spring School 2018

CUPE 1281 is sponsoring six (6) members’ attendance at CUPE Ontario Spring School, February 28-March 5, 2018 in Toronto.  Please click here for course listings and descriptions.  The Union is covering registration costs for 2-3 day courses priced at $100, and reimbursements in accordance with the Standing Policy on Reimbursement for Union Participation.  We urge members to use their leave provisions, workplace professional development funds (if any), CUPE council funds, and/or apply for CUPE scholarships if possible, to maximize access to funding.  CUPE 1281 members interested in participating in Spring School should submit a statement of interest to Sara Jaffri (admin@cupe1281.caby Friday, February 2, 2018.  Spring School generally fills up fast, so please do not delay in expressing your interest.

We are also covering registration for members to attend a training session of their selection from the 2018 CUPE Workshop calendar here from January to May 2018.  The same parameters outlined above apply.  For those selecting a course from the calendar, please state your interest to at least three weeks prior to the course commencement so that you can be registered. We will also consider interest in courses offered by Local CUPE Council and labour council, OFL and CLC sponsored courses/educationals. If you are interested in attending a non-CUPE educational or have an idea for an alternative educational opportunity for your workplace please contact:

In accordance with the Bylaws, members who have attended courses, conferences and educationals, please submit a brief report (250-500 words) outlining the materials covered or actions taken at the course, conference or educational workshop.  The report should also outline areas where the member would be able to share skills or materials with others in the Local. Such reports will be collected and held by the Vice-President.

Please take a look at the information links, note the deadlines, and take advantage of these opportunities! 

CUPE 1281 Statement on workplace closure at The Centre for Women & Trans People (York University)

(November 23, 2017)

This statement is to inform the York University community of the current situation at the Centre for Women and Trans People (CWTP-York), to dispel inaccurate information or misinformed perceptions which may negatively impact our members. As the union representing the Centre’s two staff, CUPE 1281’s main concern is to defend these workers from negative repercussions resulting from the Employer’s actions, including the Employer’s failure to defend workers from (and active complicity in) campaigns targeting trans staff.

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CUPE 1281 convention highlights

On Monday June 12th, delegates from across all sub-locals met for CUPE 1281’s annual convention. Thank you for all your support in making this convention happen.

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Bargaining update: tentative agreement has been reached

March 22 2017

We are very pleased to report that we have reached a tentative agreement with CUPE 3913 and there will be no lockout.

Thanks to the hardwork of our bargaining team, and everyone’s public support, we have reached solutions with the Employer that commit them to respecting job security and unionized work.
Both parties will seek ratification for this tentative agreement this week.

Bargaining Update: Progress is being made, but we still need your support.

March 7th 2017

CUPE 1281 represents CUPE 3913 Grievance Coordinator Manuel Marques and all staff covered by the collective agreement with the employer, CUPE 3913. We are currently in contract negotiations with CUPE 3913 regarding that collective agreement. 

During negotiations the 3913 Executive was acting as a bad employer. Now progress is being made, but the 3913 Executive continue to threaten to lockout Manuel  and continue to be very reluctant to cooperate in the negotiation process.

Manuel and CUPE 1281 need support from CUPE 3913 members and allies. We are protecting job security, good benefits, and fair processes for everyone. Please hold the CUPE 3913 Executive accountable.

Tell them continuing to negotiate and bargain fairly is the right thing to do, and they should cease engaging in lockouts.

During negotiations the 3913 Executive has been acting as a bad employer:

Demanding major concessions:
CUPE 3913 began negotiations by proposing over 200 changes to the collective agreement. That is a lot of contract changes to ask from staff and their union. When an employer makes that many proposals they usually understand that they will need to devote significant time to negotiating those changes.  

Many of the changes the CUPE 3913 Executive proposed were concessions. Concessions are changes to the collective agreement that would reduce the quality of working conditions for staff, or the rights they have through their union. Concessions are not something that working people agree to easily, and CUPE National has a policy against accepting concessions. It is generally understood that when one union accepts concessions, it makes it easier for employers elsewhere to insist on concessions, and there is a domino effect that lowers standards for all workers, unionized and non-unionized alike.

The concessions that CUPE 3913 Executive demanded from their staff included reducing job security and cutting benefits:

Reduced job security: Several of the 3913 Executive’s demands combined to deeply undermine job security and casualize employment in the workplace. In negotiations recently, we have made some progress in reaching provisional agreement on the prioritization of permanent over term contract and casual jobs, But, there are still proposals on the table that allow for contracting out, and undermine seniority rights, job quality and protections against due process in harassment grievances. These changes include:

  • Refusal to stipulate hours associated with new positions the employer has proposed.
  • Proposing job descriptions that include a high level of management scrutiny & build in a lack of employee trust.
  • Eliminating protections that prevent arbitrary changes to these bargaining unit positions, including layoffs.
  • Eliminating protections that prevent workers from being displaced because of technological change.
  • Setting the performance evaluations up as punitive processes.
  • Disallowing internal transfers to vacant positions based on seniority, while setting vague standards for what it means to be qualified for a job.
  • Insisting on removing all references to the CUPE 1281 Staff Representative and Shop Steward from the collective agreement.

It has taken a lot of work to reduce the list of concessions demanded by the Employer around job security to those listed above.

Cuts to Benefits: The 3913 Executive has attempted to diminish  access to leaves, sick days and severance pay.

Like all CUPE locals, CUPE 1281 says no to concessions. But, especially given that most of our employers are not-for-profit and social justice organizations whose goals we share as working people, we are always very willing to work with employers if they see issues with the Collective Agreement or with our relationship. Doing that work takes time and good will. It takes time to talk through issues, so we can develop understanding and trust, and arrive at mutually agreeable solutions.

Limiting bargaining time and effective bargaining processes:
Unfortunately, from early on the CUPE 3913 executive refused to devote the necessary time for face-to-face bargaining, and made no effort to build good-will and trust.

Despite proposing a major overhaul of the collective agreement, and requesting many significant concessions, the CUPE 3913 Executive began bargaining by insisting that they would only meet to discuss the proposed changes for two hours at a time.

Such short bargaining meetings deviates significantly from standard practice when negotiating collective agreements, and makes it very difficult to come to agreements, especially when so much is on the table. In addition, Manuel’s union representative and chief negotiator are based in Toronto and have had to be commuting to Guelph, an hour each way, in order to attend these bargaining sessions.

CUPE 1281 is a small union, much less resourced than the employer. The work-time of the CUPE 1281 Staff Representative is stretched thin between the many workplaces we represent. Commuting two hours for a two hour meeting would be a significant drain on precious staff resources that our many members rely on to meet their servicing needs.

When we requested standard full-day bargaining sessions, CUPE 3913 would only agree to three hour bargaining sessions. In order to be cooperative, and to get bargaining started, we agreed.

Once we agreed to three hour bargaining sessions, they continued to show little respect for our time. They left one bargaining session halfway through, after just 1.5hrs. Then they last-minute cancelled another bargaining session, and gave no alternative date to meet.

Also difficult for CUPE 1281 was CUPE 3913 Executives’ insistence that much of the bargaining take place over email. This consisted of long written rationales for each side’s position on different proposed changes. This was not effective. Email exchanges are prone to misunderstanding and are not conducive to building trust. They are also much less efficient than conversations. Given how much email bargaining undermined the goals of bargaining, and how much of a drain on staff time it was, this was not a process we could agree to.  

CUPE 3913 gave some indication that they insisted on bargaining in these ways because they needed to focus on their bargaining with their own employer, the University of Guelph. In response we indicated on several occasions that we were more than willing to postpone our own bargaining until a better time for CUPE 3913. We in no way wanted to undermine their own bargaining with their employer. But CUPE 3913 Executive’s refused these offers, and insisted on continuing bargaining at the same time they were bargaining with the University of Guelph.

Most of the progress to date has came from CUPE 1281 being cooperative. By the time of the lockout (we’ll get to that soon) of the 54 agreements the two sides had successfully come to, the vast majority (45) were CUPE 1281 agreeing to things the employer wanted. The remaining 9 were things the employer agreed to that we had proposed.

Because of how little time CUPE 3913 was willing to devote to negotiating, and because of their unilateral demands about how bargaining would take place, we were barely able to discuss any of the substantive issues until we entered mediation.

Mediation is when the Ministry of Labour intervenes in the bargaining process to bring the two sides together. The Ministry assigns a mediator to do this work.

Mediation was very helpful. It meant that we finally met for full days of bargaining, and we were able to make some progress.

Engaging in Lockouts:
Despite the slow but meaningful progress we were making in mediation the employer refused to continue negotiating.

They filed a ‘no board’ that would allow them to lockout Manuel (and gave Manuel the right to strike) after a deadline on February 15.

A lockout means CUPE 3913 stops paying Manuel and stops allowing him to do his work on behalf of 3913 members, in order to try and put pressure on him and CUPE 1281 to accept their concessionary demands.

On February 15, the last day of mediation before they would be allowed to lock Manuel out they refused our offer to find more dates to continue mediation. Instead, at the very end of the day they handed us a 273 page document that they said was their ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ final offer. We had an hour to accept the whole thing, or they would lock Manuel out.

It was impossible to go through the whole document in an hour to find all the changes they had made to their proposals, but it was clear that the major concessions they were demanding still remained. In addition there were many smaller changes that we still had not even been able to discuss meaningfully.

We were unable to agree in that hour, and we asked instead that we find another time to meet again and keep negotiating. But they refused, informed us that beginning at midnight Manuel would be officially locked-out, and asked him to hand over his office keys.

A lockout is an extreme measure available to employers in collective bargaining. The employer exercising their power to stop paying their workers until they agree to the employer’s demands is cruel, and deeply impacts the lives of the workers who are suddenly without a paycheque. It is not something you would expect a union to do to their staff.

The employer’s decision to lockout Manuel subjected CUPE 3913 to significant criticism from progressive groups in the Guelph community and the labour movement.

That criticism helped pressure the employer to ‘suspend’ the lockout after 7 days, and agree to two more days of mediation on March 2 and 3.

Now progress is being made:

We were glad to hear the news that CUPE 3913 reached a tentative agreement with their own employer, the University of Guelph, and we hoped this would mean they would finally be willing to devote the necessary time to our bargaining, and cease engaging in lockouts.

But unfortunately, at first mediation on March 2 and 3 looked like it was going to be a repeat of the final days of mediation before CUPE 3913 locked Manuel out.

When CUPE 3913 agreed to two more days of mediation they themselves admitted it would be hard verging on impossible for a full agreement to be reached in just two days, but still, two days was all they would give. They continued using the lockout threat, advising us that if we did not agree to their demands in those two days they would resume the lockout.

When mediation began, the employer refused to meet with our bargaining team, saying they refused to negotiate with our bargaining team chief-negotiator, Sheila, and they would meet only with Manuel.

Nonetheless, two long days of slow shuttle diplomacy between the parties (never meeting face to face) resulted in some encouraging progress, including on some of the bigger issues like preventing the casualization of work.

But again on the last day, the employer announced they were giving us another take-it-or-leave it final offer, and if we didn’t sign the lockout would resume.

Thankfully, this time we have managed to avert their ultimatum and continue negotiating. After a bit of back and forth over the weekend, we have come to agreement on a process that will allow us to keep negotiating through a mediator for the next two weeks, and CUPE 3913 will not resume Manuel’s lockout during this time.


We need your support:

We are happy this progress is being made, but we still need your support.

CUPE 3913 continues to threaten to lockout Manuel once again if an agreement is not reached by March 19, and given the pattern so far, we are worried.

You can support by informing CUPE 3913 members of what their Executive are doing, and telling the 3913 Executive:


  • Negotiating fairly with CUPE 1281 is the right thing to do.
  • Be a good employer and respect job security and quality jobs.

For questions or more ways to support you can contact


CUPE 3913: End the lockout!

February 17th 2017


The CUPE 3913 Executive is currently in negotiations with their staff, represented by CUPE 1281. In their capacity as the Employer, the CUPE 3913 Executive proposed over 150 changes to the collective agreement governing Manuel’s working conditions. CUPE 3913 is demanding serious concessions, which would casualize the work at the 3913 office, cut benefits and undermine union rights.

CUPE 3913 represents sessionals, GSAs and TAs at the University of Guelph. They are currently bargaining their own contract with the University. The University is making similar concessionary demands on CUPE 3913, and CUPE 3913 is rightfully resisting them. But while CUPE 3913 and other campus workers are fighting back against “efficiency” and austerity measures from the University, the CUPE 3913 Executive is trying to push the same agenda on their workers.

CUPE 1281 has tried to be flexible to accommodate CUPE 3913. We have tried to work with them to accomplish what they want without undermining basic job security and union rights. We have offered to postpone bargaining until a more convenient time for their local. We have asked to extend mediation so we can continue negotiating to find solutions. But in each case they refused, and have now escalated to locking out Manuel.

A lockout means CUPE 3913 has stopped paying Manuel and stopped allowing him to do his work on behalf of 3913 members, in order to try and put pressure on him and CUPE 1281 (the Union) to accept their concessionary demands.

For more information, contact

Why we march

Article by Donna Gray, Andrea Calver, and Cheryl Athersych

We are marching because we are humans. We believe in the equality of all people – full stop, no exceptions.  But we worry the most about the vulnerable communities we know Donald Trump and the Republicans will target most forcibly. We march with them and for them.

We are marching because we are CUPE 1281 members and union activists.  The kleptocracy that is the Donald Trump cabinet will not protect or extend workers’ existing rights, reduce inequality, create good jobs or bring dignity and respect to American workplaces. Progress on workers’ rights will only come from ALL workers globally standing in solidarity, just as it always has. Some things never change, but some days the stakes are higher, and the wins take more effort from all of us. These are those days.

We are marching because we are women. Donald Trump will try and undermine our human rights, and particularly our reproductive rights, at every opportunity. He needs to know, see and viscerally feel, that women around the world are resolved to resist and STOP HIM.  Our compass has only one direction – forward. 

And finally, we are marching because we are Canadians, we are Ontarians, and we are Torontonians. We have no illusions that our country/province/city is more tolerant; that the election of a fascist  “couldn’t happen here”. Make no mistake about it – it can, it has, and if we become complacent or give up, it will get worse. The election of Donald Trump must be a wake-up call for democrats everywhere.

Donna Gray, Andrea Calver, and Cheryl Athersych (pictured above) are CUPE 1281 members from the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) sub-unit. They will be marching in Washington on January 21st 2017 in protest of the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America.


Keep Fighting for $15 and Fairness

By: Evan Johnson (Co-Chief Steward)

Since its launch in spring 2015, the Fight for $15 and Fairness has been building a broad and vibrant campaign that unites union and non-union workers together in a common struggle. It’s a struggle that seeks to improve working conditions for all, regardless of what industry you work in, and regardless of whether you work part-time, full-time, or on contract.

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Update from the 519 area code

By: Christopher Currie (Co-Chief Steward)

On September 5, while other execs were slowly marching through the Toronto Labour Day parade route, I was overseeing a table for the Guelph & District Labour Council (GDLC)’s Labour Day picnic. The vibe of this event, as in past years, was an odd mix of community gathering and activist fair: folk singers and children’s games existed side-by-side with $15 and Fairness and the decolonial beats of Darius Mirshahi.

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