Solidarity with SMUFU in declaring No Confidence in SMU President and Chair of BOG

The Saint Mary’s University Faculty Union (SMUFU) has voted 91.1% in support of a motion of No Confidence in the President of SMU and the Chair of the SMU Board of Governors. The vote follows years of serious mismanagement and a lack of accountability and transparency. Recently, financial mismanagement led to the closure of The Language Centre at SMU.
There will be an information and solidarity event on Thursday, April 11, 2024 from 1-2 p.m. at the corner of Inglis Street and Tower Road. Please join us as we stand in solidarity with SMUFU in demanding new leadership.

New and Returning Elected Officials

Throughout March we held a general meeting and unit meetings for each bargaining unit. Resulting from this, we have our elected officials for the next year.

Thanks to all who ran, and thanks to our outgoing officers for their service to CUPE 3912.

Contact information for executive officers can be found here.

Executive Officers

  • Lauren McKenzie, President
  • Tanya Bilsbury, Communications Officer
  • Jean-Philippe Bourgeois, Secretary-Treasurer
  • Aiden Farrant, Recording Secretary
  • Claire Drummond, VP NSCAD
  • Greg Nepean, VP MSVU
  • Samantha Williams, VP SMU TAs
  • Erica Fischer, VP SMU PT Faculty
  • Carlos Pessoa, VP Dalhousie PT Faculty
  • Holly Hanes, VP Dalhousie TAs/Markers, Studley Campus
  • Hadi Matin Rouhani, VP Dalhousie TAs/Markers, Sexton Campus
  • Mohammad Ramezani, VP Dalhousie Truro Campus

Non-Executive Officials

  • Nolan Dickson, Steward, SMU TAs
  • Rebecca Roher, Steward, NSCAD
  • Jordan Dempsey, Steward, Dalhousie
  • Jonathon Tot, Steward, Dalhousie
  • Shehzeen, Steward, Dalhousie
  • Jenna MacPhee, Steward, Dalhousie
  • Neil Balan, Steward, SMU PT Faculty
  • Kim Robinson, Membership Officer

Bylaw Committee Members

  • Cameron Ells
  • Erica Fischer
  • Carlos Pessoa
  • Greg Nepean
  • Shehzeen
  • Mohammad Ramezani

Newsletter and Education Committee Members

  • Janet Fu
  • Wenceslao Amezcua
  • Mohammad Ramezani
  • Shehzeen
  • Kim Robinson

Annual General Meeting – March 26, 2024

On Tuesday March 26 at 7 p.m., the Annual General Membership Meeting (AGM) will be held in-person and online (hybrid).  At this meeting, the following Executive Officer positions will be up for election:

  1. President
  2. Recording Secretary
  3. Secretary-Treasurer
  4. Communications Officer
  5. Membership Officer
  6. One (1) Trustee (3 year term)
  7. Up to 6 members of the Newsletter and Education Committee
  8. Up to 6 members of the Bylaws Committee

All members of the Local are eligible for nomination for these positions. Learn more about these opportunities here. Members interested in standing for election to any of these roles can contact Renee Danker, our Office Manager, to put their name forward as candidates. Members can also be nominated at the meeting.

In Person location: Room 224 of the Dalhousie Student Union Building (6136 University Avenue).

Zoom link: Contact Kim Robinson, our membership officer

Reflections on the Closure of the The Language Centre, Saint Mary’s University

Lauren McKenzie
CUPE 3912 Vice President, SMU, the Language Centre

The first stop for most non-native English speaking students (NNESS) attending universities in Canada are language schools within the university. Language schools also act as a pipeline for international student tuition fees as learners are accepted conditionally to university programs upon completion of language courses, usually called ‘bridging programs’. Students undertake intensive courses in academic communication, critical thinking and research standards to prepare for full time study.  Moreso, students are welcomed into a community where they find safety.

The Language Centre (TLC) at Saint Mary’s University (SMU) has been supporting the cultural and academic transition of learners and newcomers for 25 years. Thousands of students have passed through these doors and many have gone on to earn degrees from SMU and become permanent members of our community. 

Closure of The Language Centre

Once a thriving, profitable school in the heart of Halifax, TLC was left unrecognisable as a result of poor management and neglect. On January 23, 2024, CUPE 3912 was informed that all operations at TLC would cease by the end of April 2024. SMU has chosen to abandon all English language programs, the IELTS Testing Centre and the teacher training course that share the building. 

Impact on Instructors

In spite of the importance of their work, language instructors are amongst the most precariously employed workers in the increasingly unstable labor force. Very few English language teachers in post secondary education are unionized and most have no more than 8 – 12 weeks of job security. Most have no health benefits or access to university pension programs. They are typically excluded from perks such as access to parking or to wellness facilities and tuition discounts. Despite the fact that these are highly educated and specialized workers, they are second-class citizens in our sector.

Local 3912 is disappointed with the callous way that TLC instructors have been treated. The university administration did not consult with instructors and no business plan or vision for the future was ever communicated. The University stood by as the previous director of TLC hired three full-time instructors from outside the union to teach English language courses. This ignored precedence and robbed CUPE 3912 members of their right to bargained work. That director was fired, and the position left vacant. For the past several years the employees have stood witness as more administrative staff were hired, even though the University stopped recruiting and student numbers dwindled. 

The first time instructors, many of whom have been at TLC for decades, heard from the senior administrator overseeing the unit was in an after-hours email from a complete stranger who laid off the entire workforce over their lunch break, before they had to face awaiting students. They were deeply saddened by the loss of their jobs and the impact that this will have on international students and the community.

Impact on Students

The other casualty of the university’s callous actions are the international students who came to Saint Mary’s in good faith. These learners gave their significant international student tuition fees to The Language Centre with hopes of starting full time study at SMU, which has now abandoned them in their journey to full-time post secondary study. This is not just about money as these students have strict visa rules that require them to attend the programs they have been approved for. Thus, SMU has cast students out with no clear plan as to how they will begin full time study in the fall, bringing doubt and uncertainty to their visa status, educational plan, and future.

We are left asking what will future language learners at SMU do and how will their academic needs be addressed? The internationalization of higher education means more than just accepting large tuition fees from non-citizen students. It requires meaningful academic support so that learners are successful. Saint Mary’s has systematically disassembled the academic community that created a fair and equitable academic environment for international students who speak English as an additional language. International students are poorly served by an institution that depends so significantly on them because students are marginalized by their language and immigration status. 

CUPE 3912’s Response 

We were in the midst of bargaining our next Collective Agreement when the Employer indicated that they would not return to the bargaining table, as TLC would close. Our CUPE National representative advised us to request a return to the bargaining table from the Employer, citing the statutory freeze in place due to the status of active bargaining and the possibility of filing an unfair labour practise complaint. Fortunately, the employer agreed to return to the bargaining table to discuss the terms of the closure of TLC.

After a difficult day of negotiations, we reached an agreement for TLC instructors. This included non-monetary items, such as access to the Extended Family Assistance Plan, SMU email accounts,  Brightspace course shells, the Patrick Power library, employee records, and the health clinic for those who receive primary care at SMU. The Employer agreed to 3% retro pay and a lump sum payment to the local, so that members at TLC can determine the most equitable way to allocate funds. The Employer repeatedly referred to the dire financial situation at SMU – and we reminded them no one feels that more than instructors at TLC.

In Parting

I extend my heartfelt best wishes to all my colleagues at TLC. I thank the CUPE 3912 Executive Board for moral support, the knowledge and experience that helped to navigate this situation for the instructors at TLC. Being a CUPE VP has opened my eyes to the world of the labour movement and the incredible challenges facing the post-secondary sector. I intend on staying involved, continuing my education and activism and stepping up when and where I can make a difference. I look forward to attending the first All Committee Meeting (ACM) of the Post-Secondary Action Committee in Ottawa this month, where I will speak to the issues – the creation of a second class within the higher education sector, shoddy contracts for newcomers, and international students’ contentions with citizenship issues – while building solidarity with workers facing similar challenges across our sector.

Upcoming elections for executive officers, stewards, and committee positions

Please consider taking the opportunity to serve on the local’s Executive Board, as a member of a Negotiating Committee for one of our bargaining units, as a Member of the Bylaws Committee, or as a Member of the Newsletter Committee.

The following Executive Officer positions will be up for election at our March Annual General Meeting:

  1. President
  2. Recording Secretary
  3. Secretary-Treasurer
  4. Communications Officer
  5. Membership Officer
  6. One (1) Trustee (3 year term)

Please note:

  • All members of the Local are eligible for nomination for these positions.

  • The President and Secretary-Treasurer, both Signing Officers, must be available to carry out duties in person at the CUPE 3912 office.

  • A member may accept nomination for a position while holding office in any position. If successful in the election, their resignation from their current position will take effect at that time.

  • To be eligible for nomination, a member must be a member in good standing as set out in Article B.8.3 of the National Constitution.

  • All duly elected Officers shall be installed at the meeting at which elections are held and shall continue in office for one year or until a successor has been elected and installed, provided, however, that no term of office shall be longer than three years.

  • The terms of office for Trustees shall be so that one serves for a period of three years, one for two years, and one for one year, as laid down in Article B.2.4 of the CUPE National Constitution. Each year thereafter, the Local Union shall elect one Trustee for a three-year period. No member who has been a signing officer for the Local Union is eligible to run for Trustee, until at least one full term of office has elapsed.

  • Honorarium per year: President – amount equivalent to 2.0 full-year courses; Recording Secretary – amount equivalent to 0.50 full-year course; Secretary-Treasurer – amount equivalent to 0.75 full-year course; Communications Officer – amount equivalent to 0.50 full-year course; Membership Officer – $500, Trustee – $500 per audit.

  • Members interested in standing for election to any of these roles should contact Renee Danker, our Office Manager, to put their name forward as candidates. Members can also be nominated at the meeting.

The following Executive Officer and Steward positions will be up for election at Unit Membership Meetings:


  1. Vice President – Part-time Instructors at Dalhousie University
  2. Vice President – Teaching Assistants at Dalhousie University (Sexton Campus)
  3. Vice-President – Teaching Assistants at Dalhousie University (Studley Campus)
  4. Vice-President – Dalhousie University, Truro Campus
  5. Steward – Part-time Instructors at Dalhousie University
  6. Steward – Teaching Assistants at Dalhousie University (Studley Campus)
  7. Steward – Teaching Assistants at Dalhousie University (Sexton Campus)

Mount Saint Vincent

  1. Vice President – Part-time Instructors at Mount Saint Vincent University
  2. Steward – Part-time Instructors at Mount Saint Vincent University

Saint Mary’s Part-Time Faculty

  1. Vice President – Part-time Faculty at Saint Mary’s University
  2. Steward – Part-time Faculty at Saint Mary’s University

Saint Mary’s TAs

  1. Vice President – Teaching Assistants at Saint Mary’s University
  2. Steward – Teaching Assistants at Saint Mary’s University.


  1. Vice President – Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, and Individual Course Appointees at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design 

Please note:

  • Vice-Presidents and Stewards for instructors must be teaching or have taught as an instructor of the bargaining unit whose CUPE 3912 members they will represent to be eligible for nomination, within the last three years. The Vice-Presidents and Stewards for Teaching Assistants must be working or have worked as a Teaching Assistant or Marker/ Demonstrator at the campus or university at which they will represent CUPE 3912 members to be eligible for nomination. In the event that no member meeting the nomination criteria accepts nomination, other members of the Local will be eligible for nomination.
  • To be eligible for nomination, a member must be a member in good standing as set out in Article B.8.3 of the National Constitution.
  • Honorarium per year: Vice Presidents – amount equivalent to 0.50 full-year course; Stewards – amount equivalent to 0.25 full-year course.
  • Members interested in standing for election to any of these roles should contact Renee Danker, our Office Manager, to put their name forward as candidates. Members can also be nominated at the meeting.

What do stewards do?

  • Encourage the participation of all members of the unit in union activity and maintain regular contact with the members to provide ongoing union awareness and education.
  • Endeavour to identify candidates for Steward and other Local positions in their workplace, including but not limited to filling Steward vacancies and soon-to-be vacancies.
  • Advise the members of their departments and Units, as applicable, with regard to matters involving the Collective Agreement.
  • Report on issues facing Unit members.

  • Be part of the Grievance committee of their Unit and in conjunction with the VP represent their members in grievance meetings.
  • With the VP of their Unit, organise meetings and activities for their Unit and coordinate member outreach such as orientations and information sessions.
  • Provide a written report of their activities to the membership at Unit meetings and to their VP.

Negotiating Committees:

A couple of bargaining units will also elect up to two (2) members from their bargaining unit (who preferably have current contracts under the applicable Collective Agreement) at their membership meeting for their Negotiating Committee.

  • Members of the Negotiations Committee must represent the interests of all members of the bargaining unit.

  • Committee members get paid up to $500 per year, per position payable upon completion of their role.

Bylaw Committee 

Up to 6 (six) members in good standing will be elected at the Annual General Membership Meeting to review the Bylaws.

  • All members of the Bylaw Committee are required to attend a CUPE training session.

  • For more information on what this committee does, check section 17. a. 2. of our Bylaws.

Education and Newsletter Committee 

Up to 6 (six) members, one from each bargaining unit, will be elected at the Annual General Membership Meeting for this committee, which is chaired by the Communications Officer.

SMU TA Update

Jonathan Mansvelt
CUPE 3912 Vice-President SMU TAs 

Happy March, everyone! I am honoured to have entered 2024 as the newly elected vice-president of the SMU Teaching Assistant (TA) Bargaining Unit. As an Honours Psychology student with eight TAships under my belt, I am excited to continue advocating for improved working conditions, especially given our crucial role in course delivery at SMU. It is hard to believe that less than a year ago, we were actively collecting membership cards to facilitate our unionization vote. In August, we received confirmation of our certification with a unanimous 100% of votes in favour of unionizing. As the academic year at SMU winds down, I am happy to report that the SMU TA Union continues to gain momentum. 

Since our official certification this past summer, CUPE 3912 has welcomed SMU TAs with open arms. Many TAs attended a celebratory BBQ dinner at the end of the fall term alongside CUPE 3912 executives, including President Cameron, VP SMU Part-Timers Erica, Communications Officer Tanya, and CUPE National Rep Mark. On December 15, a special membership meeting was held to elect interim executive members to represent our TA bargaining unit. Samantha Williams and I were elected into the steward and vice-president roles, respectively. Since then, Sam and I have been learning the ropes of union management from fellow CUPE 3912 executives as we continue working towards negotiating our first contract with SMU.

In January and Februrary, our priority was to collect information on what our members wanted to see in our first collective agreement. With support from our organizing committee, Sam and I created and circulated a comprehensive survey via email and social media. We also conducted a phone drive on January 21, reaching out to all members on our contact list. Many productive conversations were had, addressing topics such as union education, workplace issues faced by TAs, and suggestions for improvement. Given the tight-knit nature of SMU, we also engaged in several in-person conversations with TAs around campus. Early in February, we concluded data collection, and synthesized the anonymized results into a report, drawing from our surveying, phone drive conversations, and in-person discussions.

On February 26, we circulated an email with an infographic summarizing our report, outlining TAs’ principal demands. Key issues include increased wages and protection from exploitative working conditions. Throughout February and into March, our organizing committee will continue to draft our first collective agreement with help from President Cameron and CUPE National Rep Mark. We are incorporating language from the neighbouring Dalhousie TA contract and Canada-wide CUPE TA contracts. Our goal is to have a revised draft ready for bargaining by early April. Beyond bargaining, our first annual TA union meeting will be held mid-March. The agenda will include discussion of bargaining priorities, contract drafting updates, and executive election (vice-president, steward, and bargaining committee roles). We hope to see everyone there as we move forward to bargaining!

CUPE NS Scholarships, Bursaries, and Awards: Application Deadlines in March and April

There are exciting scholarship, bursary, and award opportunities from the Awards Committee of CUPE Nova Scotia with deadlines coming up soon. Eligible recipients must be members in good standing of CUPE 3912 or a child or a legal ward of a member in good standing. Please consider nominating yourself or another member so that we can recognize folks for the good work they are doing within our local. You can check out the opportunities here:

  • The J. H. Stewart Reid Memorial Fellowship Trust was founded to honour the memory of the first Executive Secretary of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). A minimum scholarship of $5,000 is awarded annually to a student registered in a doctoral program at a Canadian university. Deadline: April 30, 2024.

  • 2024 Mike McNeil CUPE Atlantic Weeklong School Scholarship: The Scholarship will cover the cost of the registration fee for a single room for the purpose of attending the CUPE Atlantic Weeklong School. Applications MUST be received no later than March 15, 2024.

  • 2024 CUPE NS Rocky Jones Bursary: CUPE Nova Scotia awards one $1,000.00 Rocky Jones Bursary annually for the upcoming academic year to a student that is an African Nova Scotian or an Indigenous Nova Scotian. Application must be complete and on the application form and must be received no later than April 15, 2024.

  • 2024 CUPE NS Higgins Insurance Scholarship: Two $1000.00 CUPE Nova Scotia Higgins Insurance Scholarships are awarded annually by CUPE Nova Scotia to individuals that meet the eligibility criteria and planning enrollment at an accredited post- secondary institution in the 2024-2025 academic year. Application must be complete and on the scholarship form and must be received by the CUPE Nova Scotia Awards Committee not later than April 15, 2024.

  • 2024 CUPE NS Sean Foley Health and Safety Award: CUPE NS presents two Health and Safety Awards annually, one to an individual and one to a Local Health and Safety Committee who has made a significant contribution to health and safety. This may be through education, awareness or actions that made a difference. The Nomination Form must be complete and legible and mailed or faxed to the attention of the CUPE NS Awards Committee to the address below by April 15th, 2024 to be considered for this award.

  • 2024 Betty Jean Sutherland Sister of the Year Award The CUPE Nova Scotia Betty Jean Sutherland Sister of the Year Award endeavors to recognize a union sister who has proven their dedication to the Labour Movement specifically in advancing Equality Rights for women. A sister who embodies the principles that Betty Jean lived by. Completed Nomination Forms MUST be received by April 15, 2024 to be considered.

  • 2024 Barb Kowalski Literacy Award CUPE Nova Scotia is seeking nominations for individuals or locals that have promoted literacy within their union, workplace and or community. There are two awards available annually: one for an individual member and one for a Local Union. Nominations must be in by April 15th, 2024.


Understanding our Code of Conduct

As CUPE members, staff, and elected officers, we commit to one another and to the union to be governed by the principles of the Code of Conduct and agree to:

  • Respect the views of others, even when we disagree.
  • Recognize and value individual differences.
  • Communicate openly.
  • Support and encourage each other.
  • Make sure that we do not harass or discriminate against each other.
  • Commit to not engaging in offensive comments or conduct.
  • Make sure that we do not act in ways that are aggressive, bullying, or intimidating.
  • Take responsibility for not engaging in inappropriate behaviour due to use of alcohol or other drugs while participating in union activities, including social events.

A complaint regarding the Code of Conduct will be handled as follows:

  1. If possible, a member may attempt to deal directly with the person alleged to have engaged in behaviour contrary to the Code by asking them to stop such behaviour. If that is not possible, or if it does not resolve the problem, a member may bring forward a complaint.
  2. Any member can bring a complaint to the attention of the Membership Officer, who has been properly appointed by CUPE3912 Executive Committee and designated to be in charge of receiving behavior complaints from members to enhance the rights and obligations outlined in our bylaws and the CUPE constitution.
  3. The Membership Officer will work to seek a resolution. If this fails to resolve the matter, the Membership Officer shall report the matter to the Executive Committee. The Membership Officer has the authority to expel members from a meeting or other event for serious or persistent offences.

Working people don’t get what they deserve, they get what they negotiate

Cameron Ells
CUPE 3912 President

 “Working people don’t get what they deserve, they get what they negotiate.” CUPE 3912 NSCAD member Rebecca Roher created this image some years ago. The text is a variation of a 1996 Chester Karrass book title. She gave permission for CUPE 3912 to use this image in our current bargaining cycles of Collective Agreement negotiations with Dalhousie University (Dal.), Saint Mary’s University (SMU), Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU), and the Nova Scotia of Art and Design (NSCAD). 

Three are the next version of the 2020 – 2024 Collective Agreements with Dal, SMU and MSVU. Two will be first collective agreements with NSCAD and for the SMU Teaching Assistants, two units new to CUPE 3912 in 2023. One is for the SMU Language Center Instructors, where the employer is closing their program.  Our Lead Negotiator for what might be six employer agreements in 2024 – CUPE Staff Representative  Mark Cunningham – reminds us that negotiations are about our relative balance of power.

Institutions, be they social, educational, legal, political, or otherwise, have long term sustainable strength  – like an ecosystem – where there is a capacity to adapt to ever changing circumstances.  

Within the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), compared to some other organizations, there is relatively more space, scope and opportunity for local, independent decision making. Within CUPE 3912, there is space, scope and opportunity for the six different Negotiating Teams to do things differently while sharing a similar mission, and some resources, to improve member working conditions. 

CUPE 3912 members are also an uncommonly and relatively diverse group of backgrounds, experiences, and skill sets. The opportunities are there, to speak, listen, think about, discuss, and consider a variety of perspectives, before legitimate democratic decision making takes place. 

Innovations, improvements, experiments, or adaptations by one CUPE 3912 negotiating team may be an influence on what is used by other teams. Some “oh whoops” or some accidently “spilled milk” along the way, can be part of an acceptable price to encourage creativity and informed risk taking. Our SMU Instructor Bargaining Proposal mandate involved online voting for each proposal. Some developing first contract text being developed will be shared by the new SMU Teaching Assistant and NSCAD teams. Innovative pension proposals developed for one unit of CUPE 3912 instructors will be used in proposals with other employers. We help each other.

A now former Dal President thought that the 2022 CUPE 3912 Dal strike was probably necessary in order to achieve our November 2022 agreement. Our demonstrated capacity to competently organize and execute a strike if necessary, is a useful tool, effort and option, in support of our negotiations.  

With each bargaining cycle, CUPE 3912 members have ever increasing opportunities to be informed, involved and contribute to our negotiations and related efforts to achieve our goals. Our diversity, encouragement of creative adaptations, informed risk management, and bottom up decision making instincts, helps us to achieve our goals.