Dalhousie Bargaining Updates

Upcoming Bargaining Sessions:

  • September 23, 2022

September 22, 2022: After July 27, the CUPE 3912 – Dalhousie Bargaining Team changed. A current list of members and roles is available here.

On August 5th, at a Special Membership Meeting, the CUPE 3912 – Dalhousie Strike Committee was voted into existence. The Committee, with its four subcommittees, was delegated the responsibility to lead the planning, preparing, and executing a Strike, if necessary, and formally called.

The Dalhousie Strike Committee members have organized a series of Strike Avert activities. The CUPE 3912 website has some information on these. The next event is September 23 at the Grawood (please RSVP).

A vote from the full CUPE 3912 Executive, as per the March 2022 mandate from members, plus a timely formal notice to the Employer, can start a legal strike. No strike will happen unless the Dalhousie Strike Committee also supports starting a strike. They are announcing that they are prepared to start strike activities by October 19th, if a strike is called.

The Strike Aversion activities by the Dalhousie Strike Committee and others, can help to avert a strike, in part by demonstrating and improving our skill sets and capacity to organize activities.

September 20th was our first formal bargaining meeting with the employer since July 26th. There are three additional meetings scheduled for September 2022.

Details of the Union’s July 26th financial proposal are presented on the July 27th update below. The Employer countered on July 26th with financial proposals that were substantially similar to those in the April 26th package of proposals that were rejected by members in a June 2022 vote.

On September 20th, the Union counter-offered with financial proposals that were similar to July 26th but with different inflation assumptions.

The Union financial proposals are influenced by rates used at other research based universities in Canada – the U15 group. The employer used a U15 comparison recently with respect to determining the pay rate for the university President who received a 13% raise this year. However, the employer does not base their financial proposals on U15 rates for Part-Time Instructors, Teaching Assistants, Markers and Demonstrators.

The Union financial proposals for the Marker and Demonstrator hourly rate is also influenced by examples of a past position or job description that was paid at the Teaching Assistant hourly rate, is now being paid at a Marker/Demonstrator hourly rate. These positions can be held by the same individual providing the same or similar duties or services, but at a reduced hourly rate. One way to address this is to have parity in the Teaching Assistant and Marker/Demonstrator hourly rates.

There may be other ways to address this circumstance that involve non-monetary measures.

More conversations, bargaining, and exchanging of proposals is expected to continue on Friday September 23rd.

July 27, 2022: After the vast majority of Dal CUPE 3912 members who voted rejected the tentative agreement, the negotiating committee met the employer yesterday to discuss the three main concerns that affected the membership:

  • Salary adjustment for wage parity
  • Salary increases to cover inflation
  • Equal pay for markers and demonstrators as for TAs

We proposed the following annual wage increase rates based on averaged pay of U15 universities and yearly inflation:

What do these numbers mean?

To better understand these numbers, we have divided them in two sections: parity and inflation. Parity, shows the wage increase required for each group to attain parity by 2023, with the largest increase in 2022. Inflation shows the increase required to keep our purchasing power for the given contract period. Total does not add up as these are compounded.

In dollar figures, it means we asked for:


We are asking for an increase (listed under total) in wages for every year starting 2020, as the wages have been unchanged since then. Starting September 2022, our proposal would bring TAs/markers/demonstrators in proximity to the average U15 wage for TAs in 2021-2022 which was $35.90.

Counter Offer from the Employer

The employer’s counter offer would give TAs a $200 bonus (an increase from $150 in the tentative agreement to make up for the last two years of zero wage increase) and a new bonus of $100 for other employees payable in 2022. The employer also proposed a shorter, 3 year contract from 2020-2023. No other wage increases were offered.

Dalhousie University boasts a Third Century Promise that will increase the school’s global academic and research competitiveness, diversity and equity, and forge new future leaders. We believe Dalhousie University should honour their promises and offer competitive wages to the world-class TAs, markers/demonstrators and PTAs who work extremely hard to accomplish these goals.

Strike Preparations

We will be reaching out again with details on how you can be part of the strike team and help with strike preparations.

In order to persevere with our negotiations, we are counting on YOUR support. Please talk to your friends, colleagues and every Dal CUPE member you know about how important it is for YOU and our members to be compensated fairly. We are only as strong as we are united!

June 25, 2022: The tentative agreement at Dalhousie was not ratified; the majority of voters decided to reject the tentative agreement. We will ask the employer to go back to bargaining and conciliation to reach a better deal.

April 27, 2022: On April 26 2022, at conciliation we reached a tentative agreement with the Dalhousie’s bargaining team. We will bring the tentative agreement to ratification, which means we will ask members at Dalhousie on whether or not they approve.

Details will follow on the process and timing of meetings and voting for ratification.

April 25, 2022: Tuesday, April 26, we have all-day conciliation at Dal. We’ll see if the employer has anything else to bring to the table.

As mentioned at the AGM, planning our strategy for a possible strike or other job action is ongoing and dynamic. One of the first steps for strike planning is recruiting volunteers, so please contact Dave if you are interested.

April 2, 2022:  We just finished two days of conciliation for Dalhousie. Although we did some more work on language, we are still really far apart on financial proposals so we have reached an impasse. The conciliator will file his report on April 12 and we have another day of conciliation scheduled for April 26 to try to reach a last-minute deal before we will be able to call a strike.

February 23, 2022: The Employer and Bargaining Committee have agreed to conciliation dates on March 31 and April 1.

February 16, 2022: A conciliator has been assigned and we are waiting for dates.

January 31, 2022: Last week we squeezed in a short bargaining session at Dal. We exchanged another round of financial proposals but agreed we were still far apart so we are filing for conciliation to begin February 16.

The employer claims that their expenses keep increasing so that they can’t pay us more – what about our expenses? Now we need to be paid more not only to be on par with almost all other PT faculty and most TAs in Canada but also just to keep up with increase in the cost of living.

Finally they claim to be passionate about EDIA and yet cannot oblige our request for marginal increase for our members, many of whom come from marginalized groups.

January 10, 2022: This past week we tabled our financial proposals at Dalhousie.

Our discussions followed the common steps of us explaining that we deserve a lot more money because other PTers at Canadian universities get a lot more money, and them replying that we don’t have a lot to give you and we don’t need to anyway because other PTers in Halifax (i.e., at SMU and the Mount) get the same. This time we intend to break this cycle of the three universities using the others as comparators to justify our low wages.

We also had an excellent presentation by Fallen, VP for TAs and Markers at Studley, who explained how a substantial wage adjustment would help marginalized groups, something Dalhousie has repeatedly promised to do.

If the employer(s) continue to deny us fair wages despite our efforts, WE NEED YOUR HELP if we are to gain any substantial increase in stipends! Please look out for further information, follow our campaign and attend future meetings (tbd). Wage Parity NOW!

December 20, 2021: We had bargaining days at Dal last week. We finished most of the discussion on non-financial items with the employer; however, we have reached an impasses for some of these items so they remain unresolved. We will table financial proposals at our next meeting on Jan. 7.

November 5, 2021: We do not have bargaining dates until late November. We know that bargaining is taking a long time. There are several reasons for this:

  • We are bargaining with three employers at the same time. Although last time we finished earlier at one university, we signed the collective agreement at the third university almost three years after the previous one expired.
  • We have a lot of proposals because there are a lot of changes to be made to the collective agreement to achieve fair working conditions. It takes time to discuss these proposals and we are making progress.
  • It is difficult to schedule times when 7-11 people are available. The schedule of our CUPE representative is particularly busy as whoever is in this position also assists other locals and is at other bargaining tables as well. Also note that we (union bargaining team) do not get time off for bargaining, as may be the case for other bargaining teams. However, we are setting several dates at all universities in the next few months hoping to wrap up soon. Also note that we are continually working on bargaining with extra meetings for the individual teams and all teams together.

October 27, 2021: Last week we had a day and a half of bargaining at Dalhousie. We discussed a lot of proposals including our common proposals, TA-specific proposals and a proposal to update hiring processes towards continuing appointments similar to the one we proposed at SMU. As at SMU, it looks like we are coming to an agreement for several proposals but are still negotiating some of the wording.

Our CUPE rep is not available most of November so our next dates at all three universities are in late November or December. We are booking dates well into January so we can make sure to reserve as much time as possible for bargaining.

October 19, 2021: Yesterday evening the Dal bargaining team met before resuming our negotiations at the table this week.

Our CUPE rep is not available most of November so our next dates at all three universities are in late November or December. We are booking dates well into January so we can make sure to reserve as much time as possible for bargaining.

September 24, 2021: There has been break from bargaining this month. Bargaining will resume in October.

September 2, 2021: Our new CUPE rep, Mike Kelly, will be quite busy with his new assignment in September so our next bargaining dates are in October.

We are expecting counter proposal from Dal, where we are still working through TA proposals. At Dal we are discussing the ROE (record of employment). It seems that the number of hours determined for ROE purposes at Dal is only half of what it is at the Mount, but the determined number of hours is even greater at SMU. We are working towards making this similar for our members at all three universities.

August 13, 2021: We had two sessions at Dal this week. While we did make some progress at Dal, we are realizing that scheduling full days of bargaining (hopefully in person) would be more efficient. However, our CUPE rep is very busy in general at multiple bargaining tables but especially in September with several arbitrations including one for us. Therefore, our plan is to schedule full days of bargaining at Dal to make some substantial progress this fall. The bargaining teams have been meeting a lot recently and have focused on finalizing our financial proposals.

July 22, 2021: We are proposing language to strengthen academic freedom articles based on language from the collective agreements of the faculty associations. We are working on language towards continuing appointments such as having courses decided for a year in advance and internal and external posting processes. At Dal we also provided extensive proposals for TAs and markers that address issues of timing, transparency and the use of the duty form. We have our next dates for both Dal and SMU in mid-August.

June 14, 2021: Summer is generally slower as it is more difficult to coordinate schedules. We are also going to have a meeting with all bargaining teams to finalize our financial proposals and with the mobilization committee to continue our strategic planning as we continue negotiations.

This past week we had a bargaining team meeting and a bargaining session for Dal.

June 1, 2021: Things are going relatively well and we are making progress on several items. However, we have yet to table financial proposals, which we hope to do soon. We have two bargaining sessions scheduled next week.

May 17, 2021: We had an all bargaining teams meeting last week. We are working on our financial proposals including costing (estimating how much our proposals will cost the employer). Bargaining seems to be particularly slow these days, partly due to less frequent dates during the spring/summer months and partly due to issues that seem to be unrelated to our actual proposals. We hope things will pick up but the summer is usually a slow time. 

May 3, 2021: We resumed bargaining at Dal last week. We are making progress on Dal-specific issues but have only just started discussing some of our common proposals that focus on equity, stipend and benefits.

April 26, 2021: We resume bargaining later this week at  Dal after an extended break.

April 12, 2021:  Next week the bargaining teams have a CUPE training session on strike planning. The purpose of this is not to prepare for a strike but instead to learn about how to plan for a possible strike.

March 29, 2021: At a session with Dal we had a presentation on the evaluation of instruction and student ratings of instruction from the Centre for Learning and Teaching

March 15, 2021: It seems like a lot of bargaining involves back and forth discussion and proposals, often about specific wording. Sometimes language disagreements might seem trivial, but the difference between something like ‘could’ or ‘shall’ can be substantial.

Another aspect of bargaining is the LOU or MOU (letter or memorandum of understanding). Sometimes if both sides want to see progress towards a proposal but don’t think it can be accomplished during the current round of bargaining, they set up a LOU/MOU to set up a committee to discuss the issue within a certain time period. The discussion can then lead to changes in the next round of bargaining. We then have to decide if or what we can achieve this round of bargaining and what could go in an LOU/MOU and how it will be followed up.

February 22, 2021:  Much of what we are discussing at the table in the early stages is related to past and ongoing grievances. There are two main sources of ideas for bargaining proposals: priorities of our members, which we get from our survey, and grievances. Proposals related to grievances are usually non-financial and often relate to different interpretations of the collective agreement from the employer and union (this is why they result in grievances). For us this time they are mostly related to discipline and job postings. These issues often seem to be less important to most members, yet by protecting a few members through grievances and changing the language of the collective agreement, we are protecting all members from possible unfair treatment. Progress is slow but it is a challenge to bargain at all three universities at once.

February 17, 2021: We have had a bit of a break from bargaining. The first step in negotiations is to exchange proposals, which we have now done at all three universities. The next step is the long process of asking questions, suggesting counter-proposals and hopefully coming to an agreement on some of these while deciding not to pursue others. We are now at the start of this stage and are just beginning to ask each other questions to clarify proposals. We have tentatively agreed on only a few very minor proposals, most of which involve things like editing. Some of our common proposals such as a major increase in salary, pension and other benefits are financial proposals and come much later in the process, typically after dealing with all non-financial proposals. We do not expect to even start negotiating financial proposals anytime soon. Therefore, the bargaining teams are still doing background research including exploring different options for a pension plan.

February 9, 2021: We had one bargaining session  Dal last week; another at Dal was cancelled partly because of weather.

We continue to discuss various proposals at each university. Bargaining at three universities at the same time gives us a comparative vision of the perspective of the employers. For example, we have common proposals to address equity issues. Our goal is to strengthen languge to protect our members against harassment and discrimination. Notably we want to want to make sure that provincial and university policies are included in the collective agreement wherever possible to inform our members and alert them to details of these policies. One of the employers agrees with us and included even more language outlining various university policies on these issues. Another employer instead proposed to remove the language we have from the collective agreement rather than expand it further. This week we have a break from bargaining but the teams continue to prepare for future bargaining sessions.

February 1, 2021: Last week we had team meetings to prepare for bargaining at Dal this week.  Overall we are still in the early stages of bargaining and have not yet had a response from any of the universities on most of our common proposals.

January 19, 2021: We are making progress but it’s slow. We continue to seek improvements in the timeliness of the awarding of TA, Marker and Demonstrator contacts We are pleased that the employer agrees with us on including or referring to policies such as for domestic violence in the collective agreement.

Nov. 30, 2020: At Dalhousie, we had three bargaining sessions on Nov. 23, 26 and 27. Bargaining this past week consisted mostly of asking and answering questions for clarification. We are pleased that the employer is eager to understand our motivation behind our proposals and we are hoping to come to an agreement on several non-monetary issues. The union explained the importance of key issues such as ensuring grad students are not asked to teach or TA extra hours to finish their degrees in a timely manner and making this year’s temporary ban on using student evaluations for discipline permanent because they are biased.

Nov. 18, 2020: We started bargaining with Dalhousie administration on Monday. The first session simply involved exchanging proposals so there is not much to report, we had additional sessions on November 23, 26, 26 have another session with Dal next Monday.

Past Bargaining Sessions:

  • September 20, 2022
  • July 26, 2022 (Conciliation)
  • April 26, 2022 (Conciliation)
  • April 1, 2022 (Conciliation)
  • March 31, 2022 (Conciliation)
  • January 26, 2022
  • January 25, 2022
  • January 7, 2022
  • December 15, 2021
  • October 21, 2021
  • October 20, 2021
  • August 12, 2021
  • August 11, 2021
  • July 20, 2021
  • June 9, 2021
  • May 26, 2021
  • April 30, 1-4, 2021
  • March 29, 1-4, 2021
  • March 12, 1-4, 2021
  • February 4. 2021
  • January 14, 2021
  • November 27, 2020
  • November 26, 2020
  • November 23, 2020
  • November 16, 2020
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