Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3904

About Us

CUPE Local 3904 represents contract academics at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University) in three bargaining units: Unit 1 - Contract Lecturers; Unit 2 - Continuing Education Contract Lecturers; and Unit 3 - Academic Assistants.

CUPE Local 3904 works to protect and improve the working conditions of all of its members through collective bargaining, mediation, joint consultation, conciliation, and, if and when necessary, strike action.

Collective agreements often provide union members with greater worker rights and protections than in non-unionized work environments. In light of the insecure and precarious nature of contingent work that contract academics at Toronto Metropolitan University and other universities face today, CUPE Local 3904 believes in the value and strength of a unified labour force as the basis for fighting to protect and try to improve the working lives of all of its members.

To ensure the safety and improve the working conditions of all of its members, the union is committed to fighting for the elimination of harassment and discrimination of any sort or on any basis, and promoting the equal treatment of all its members regardless of class, race, colour, nationality, age, sex, gender, language, sexual orientation, place of origin, ancestry, religious beliefs, or disability.

CUPE Local 3904 also operates as a lobbying agent on behalf of its members to all appropriate outside agencies which are responsible for, or which have an interest in, post-secondary education issues in the province of Ontario.

Our Local's History

CUPE Local 3904 is part of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Canada’s largest union. Our Local organized, and on October 17, 1977, was granted certification as the Graduate Assistance Association (GAA), known today as CUPE Local 3904, Unit 1. It was comprised of both part-time and sessional Contract Lecturers employed in the University’s regular day school programs. Known as Local 4, the Union formed under the Canadian Union of Educational Workers (CUEW). In 1977, full-time Contract Sessional Lecturers made $13,500 a year and had no benefits or seniority rights. The mission of the new Local 4 was to negotiate and bargain for better pay, benefits, and job security by way of seniority rights for its members.

After a two-week strike in 1980, members obtained seniority rights and contract extensions. In 1984, CUEW Local 4 bargained for pay increases, narrowing the wage gap between Unit 1 Contract Lecturers and tenured faculty. In 1986, CUEW Local 4 negotiated the Matching RRSP Plan, and in 1988, they fought for improvements to the insurance plan as well as for disability leave within the Collective Agreement (CA). In 1993, CUEW Local 4 negotiated further wage increases, in addition to ending the seniority cap to further improve job security for long-term members. Contract Lecturers, who had taught in the bargaining unit prior to 1993, when TMU gained University status, were awarded Priority of Consideration as a form of job security and guaranteed employment in the bargaining unit (unless seniority was lost by failing to hold an employment contract in the bargaining unit for three consecutive years).

On July 27, 1994, the Union successfully obtained certification for a new unit to represent Contract Lecturers employed by the Continuing Education division, known today as Continuing Education Contract Lecturers (CECLs) or members of CUPE Local 3904 Unit 2 in the Chang School.

On January 1, 1995, CUEW Local 4 became CUPE Local 3904 with two Units: Unit 1 comprised of Sessional Contract Lecturers (reduced and full-time) and Part-Time Contract Lecturers; and Unit 2 comprised of Continuing Education Contract Lecturers. Over 80% of members approved the merger since uniting with CUPE provided the advantages of being part of a large national union, yet also retained our autonomy. When the salary grid was revised in 1996, CUPE Local 3904 negotiated clauses on maximum class sizes, as well as first consideration based on seniority.

After much campaigning and mobilizing, the Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Graduate Assistants (GAs) were certified as Unit 3 on July 24, 2003. Wages, guaranteed TA/GA work for TMU graduate students, and fair working conditions comprised the new unit’s priorities when negotiating their first CA and subsequent agreements.

In 2007, CUPE Local 3904 Unit 1 negotiated Professional Reimbursement Funds for members with reduced and full Sessional appointments, as well as some monies for those holding part-time appointments. During this round of bargaining, the Union also negotiated bereavement leave and political leave for Unit 1 members. A small increase to the contribution of the Matching RRSP Plan was won, as well as wage gains, enhanced Service Adjustment Pay for members at the maximum salary, and guaranteed severance retirement payments for Union colleagues holding Priority of Consideration status, regardless of whether their work diminished by 50% or more.

During 2014 collective bargaining, the Union negotiated pay in lieu of health benefits of 2.5% for part-time Unit 1 members and was able to raise this to 3% in the 2017 collective agreement. Also in 2014, the Union bargained for a Continuing Appointments List of 60 of the most senior Unit 1 members across the campus as a form of job security. In 2017, the Unit 1 bargaining team successfully negotiated for a further 10 members based solely on seniority to comprise a Continuing Appointments List of 70. In 2021, the Unit 1 bargaining team secured a drug and dental plan for part-time Contract Lecturers.

Also in 2014, Unit 2 negotiated a Continuing Appointments List of 40 of its most senior members across the campus who teach in Continuing Education, augmenting their job security. In 2021, the bargaining team negotiated an additional ten Unit 2 members bringing the Continuing Appointments List to 50 Unit 2 employees. The Health Plan for Unit 2 members was also expanded.

Gains that Unit 3 has made for its members include measures such as the Health Benefit Fund (HBF) and the General Assistance Fund (GAF). After 2006, when the University started adding more graduate programs, the Unit 3 CA set out clear hiring priorities: TMU PhD students first, followed by TMU MA students, and then TMU fourth-year undergraduates, before external hires would be considered.

Each of the three bargaining Units continues to maintain its own collective agreement, stewards, and bargaining team. We consistently strive to negotiate improvements to the CAs for the betterment of our precariously employed members through collective bargaining, mediation, and when necessary, arbitration and strike action. Our focus is always on wages, benefits, and working conditions. We continue to strive for an equitable environment free from harassment and discrimination of any sort by treating all members equally regardless of class, race, colour, nationality, age, sex, gender, language, sexual orientation, place of origin, ancestry, religious beliefs, or disability.

The road to equity continues – in solidarity!

(from the Archives of Local 3904 and the Archives and Special Collections at the TMU Library)