A Retrospective Report

It seems to me that a bit of a retrospective for 2017 is in order.

In January and February, we went to arbitration.  We won.  In fact, the arbitrator gave her decision orally and immediately.  We received her written decision in September.  The employer had fired a sessional just because a single student had complained.  The arbitrator said that no discipline was warranted.  This decision benefits us all by making us more secure.

I was particularly pleased that the arbitrator referred to my conduct.  Two of the employer’s witnesses criticized my actions as “first responder” but the arbitrator maintained that my actions were entirely appropriate as an advocate for our member, and seemed to suggest that the employer should have considered points I raised more seriously than they had.

In the same months, we had a grievance about office space in Arts.  Arts sessionals ended up close enough to where they had been that we had an obligation to try out the new arrangement, although we can still work for improvements and will raise issues connected with the offices at the next union-management meeting.

In March, parking came to my attention.  We lost over $3000 between May 1st 2016 and April 30th 2017 – unnecessarily – through over-selling, underpricing, and a first-come first-served policy as well as variations in demand.  We got a new parking officer on May 1st.  The new parking officer is keeping good records and doing what is possible to predict the effects of the pricing policy.  It is important that we don’t lose money on this operation because parking is used by only 10 to 15% of members and losses mean that the majority is subsidizing the minority.

The cut to the university’s budget has naturally been a matter of concern.  However, it appears that the number of classes offered on a sessional basis is almost the same as last year and that the number of teaching sessionals this term is 248, while in this term last year it was 256.

In June and July, I took up clerical work.  We maintain a data base of our members, which we need for communications.  We were getting a huge number of duplicate entries.  The problem turned out to be a glitch in the program.  It can be worked around.  We are in the process of ensuring that the membership list is accurate and up-to-date.  I added a contact form and a membership form to the union website to make it easier for the members to keep us up to date with the information we need.

We are working to revamp the office both in terms of record-keeping and in terms of furnishing.  Special thanks to Rhonda and April for all their work.

In spring, Vice-President Leslie Walter and I persuaded the employer to combine the professional development and tuition waiver funds.  The professional development fund had run out of money in December 2016 and the combination would enable us to be more flexible.  The employer agreed on the condition that the union do the clerical work.  We agreed.  The agreement, which was finalized in July, turned out to be more advantageous for us than anticipated.  We got money in the fund instead of losing a large number of unused tuition waivers.  The situation is stable and the total amount of funds available is about what had been available in previous years.  That said, we have done our best to encourage people to apply and now there are more applicants than there is funding, which means that only some applicants can be successful.

In October, we dealt with our first round of applications.  The guidelines were followed.  A couple of individuals got themselves into conflict-of-interest situations, which were resolved.  As a result, I have proposed an amendment to the by-laws to prevent conflicts-of-interest.

The conflict of interest amendment is the only one we will be able to consider at the AGM on December 8th.  We were working towards more extensive changes but the work is incomplete.  Our experience over the years has caused us to conclude that the old by-laws are not optimal.  We have developed workable conventions but the by-laws should reflect our actual practice.

We have had two vice-presidents this year, Leslie Walter and Joanie Crandall.  Part of my job is to teach potential presidents about the work of the union in the way that Heather Wagg taught me over a number of years, so that I can be replaced.  Fortunately for her but unfortunately for me, Leslie got a lecturer position and resigned at the end of June.  Joanie was elected in July and took office in August.  We have been meeting regularly so that I can keep her abreast of developments in the union and teach her what was taught to me.  Joanie is very busy with her various jobs but we do manage to meet most Wednesdays.  I will be away for a couple of weeks, so she will have some hands-on experience.

There will be more changes on the executive soon.  Some are retiring.  Others will cease to be eligible to serve at the end of next April when their membership expires.  Happily, there are many members who are willing to serve.

Our present contract will expire in 2019, so we must look ahead to bargaining.  In hopes of learning something that will help us in the process, I attended the CAUT conference on bargaining in Toronto.  I think it worked.

Puzzled recently by the appearance of letters from the CRA with my name on them, which I had never seen before, I called the CRA.  It turns out that we were mistakenly registered as a sole proprietorship with me listed as the owner!   I got them to correct this and now we are properly registered as an association.

In addition to the foregoing, there is the ongoing work of helping members.  I am at the office most weekdays and sometimes on weekends.  The first thing to do is to check the e-mail and the voicemail.  This frequently results in two or three hours of unanticipated work.  In recent weeks, I have dealt with members’ questions about the benefits, about whether you lose ROFR if you take a term off, about whether a course is credit or non-credit, and about whether courses taught elsewhere count towards service points here.  I have also explained to an associate dean what a letter from Human Resources was all about.

See you at the AGM at the University Club on Friday, December the 8th at 4:30 pm.

Brian Zamulinski

A Union Victory

On Tuesday, October 13th, 2015, at 8:30 in the morning, one of our members was fired, purportedly for cause.  The signers of the dismissal letter were Peta Bonham-Smith, then Interim Dean and now Dean of Arts and Science, and Michelle Prytula, Dean of Education.  In their letter to our member, they declared:  “Due to the severity of your conduct in making a discriminatory remark, your employment cannot continue at the university as the employment relationship is irreparable.

This case went to arbitration.  The arbitrator was Shiela Denysiuk, QC.  On September 6, 2017, she wrote:  “For all of the foregoing reasons, I have concluded that the evidence fails to establish just and reasonable cause for any discipline. The grievance is hereby allowed. The dismissal is set aside as being excessive in the circumstances. The University shall immediately reinstate [Denise] McConney and make her whole in all respects, including rights of first refusal.”  Arbitrator Denysiuk added:  “In the event I am wrong in my analysis of the comment, and some discipline is appropriate, I am satisfied that a coaching letter would have been sufficient in the circumstances.”

Witnesses Michelle Prytula and Chris Scribe, Director of ITEP, both made an issue of the conduct of the union representative who took part on the member’s behalf in the investigation meeting  in 2015.  Arbitrator Denysiuk commented on it:  “I am of the view that Zamulinski’s commentary was entirely appropriate in the circumstances. He was there to advocate for McConney. In my view, the offence taken by Scribe at the meeting, and Prytula later, might have prevented them from considering Zamulinski’s comments objectively.”

Arbitrator Denysiuk noted:  “Not every comment that offends is offensive. The test [of offensiveness] requires both an objective and subjective assessment.”

Despite the forthright judgment by the arbitrator, the union is still battling to ensure that our member is made whole.

In the meanwhile, this victory means that we are all somewhat safer from administrators who do not understand labour law.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Brian Zamulinski

President’s Report

Offices, Estoppel, and Fair Representation

Brian Zamulinski



I have heard of more than one case in which sessionals on campus lack office space.  The position taken by the employer constitutes a precedent.  This essentially means that we can request office space on your behalf.  So, if you have not been provided with a place where you can do your work, contact us at cupe3287@gmail.com.


Background to the Arts Grievance

In mid-August 2016, the employer suddenly announced that sessionals who had been housed in Arts 257 and 258 were to be rehoused.

The employer’s first plan was to set up a glorified locker room in 258.

The employer’s second plan was to use 22 carrels in the library with “no more than three” sessionals assigned to each carrel.

Both of these were rejected by the union with strong support from affected members.

There was a grievance hearing attended by a number of grievors on January 16th, 2017.

I presented the grievance.  I took into account everything that had been raised by members – there had been lots of e-mail discussion.  In an e-mail dated January 12th, 2017, I invited interested sessionals to make last minute suggestions.  None were received.

At the grievance hearing itself, after I had made my presentation, attending grievors were asked whether they wished to add anything.  One did.

On February 8th, 2017, the decision was handed down.  What was on offer was the carrels in the library and shared offices in Thorvaldson and McLean Hall.  The offer amounted to a minimum of 48 and a maximum of 57 desks for about 70 sessionals.

This appeared to be good enough that we had a legal obligation to try it out.

The members involved were notified the next day of what had been offered.  They were also informed that they would have to try it out and that we could grieve any deficiencies discovered.

The members involved were later invited to forward any complaints to the union concerning matters that they were unable to settle by discussing them with the responsible administrators.  At this time, no complaints have been received.


Good enough? 

The basis for the grievance was 33.02 of the Collective Agreement, which reads as follows:  “The Employer agrees to provide the necessary resources to sessional lecturers so they may fulfill their teaching duties effectively and with support equivalent to that provided to faculty.”

Some affected members looked at the phrase “with support equivalent to that provided to faculty” and concluded that the deal was not good enough.

But it is necessary to consider the context.  The phrase first appeared in the Collective Agreement in 2010.  There were no grievances filed by either the union or sessionals whose cubicles were in Arts 257 and 258 with respect to office accommodation between 2010 and 2016.  It follows that, by their actions, both the union and the sessionals in 257 and 258 effectively accepted the cubicle arrangement as “support equivalent” with respect to offices.

This means that we are estopped from demanding more in a grievance.  You cannot go along with an arrangement for six years and retain the legal right to challenge it.

Furthermore, while an individual is free to waste time and money on a pointless lawsuit, a union is not.  The interests of all members must be taken into account.

We can try to negotiate something better in the next round of bargaining but we have no way of legally contesting an arrangement that appears to be at least as good as the one it replaced.  In the meantime, we certainly can use the grievance as a precedent to ask for offices for those who have none at all.


Bits of Good News

After arbitration in January and February, an employee who was dismissed in 2015 on the basis of a student complaint has been re-instated and will be compensated for lost pay.

Two potential grievances have been settled informally, preserving the integrity of the Collective Agreement.  Other less serious matters have reached the same conclusion.

We have a new parking officer.  Summer parking usage is up.  Hopefully, this will continue.  We have had too many shortfalls in the past.

We are participating again with the other campus unions in the Pancake Breakfast on September 7th in the Bowl, to which you are all invited.

The employer has agreed to amalgamate the Professional Development and Tuition Waiver Funds.  This permits us to deal with applications flexibly.  The employer deserves a great deal of credit here because we have a collective agreement in place and they did not have to agree to a different arrangement.

Leslie Walter resigned as Vice-President because she has been appointed to a lecturer position.  Joanie Crandall has been elected to succeed her.  Joanie has a steep learning curve ahead of her and needs all our support.



More than 630 representatives from CUPE locals across Canada gathered in Halifax on April 3 – 6, 2017 for a national conference on Building Strong Locals.  Clayton Beish and Joanie Crandall represented CUPE 3287.

Building on the results of a recent national leadership survey that identified the particular strengths, challenges and needs of CUPE locals across the country, the heart of the conference consisted of five half-day workshops focused on building strong, inclusive, accessible and representative Union Locals.

One workshop focused on basic structural concerns – how to organize an effective executive team with diversified responsibilities, how to state policies and communicate them clearly in one’s bylaws, and how to manage record-keeping and organize financial reports.

Another workshop focused on more effectively engaging the members of one’s local through increased personal contacts, regular communication, and building common bonds. Importance was placed on reaching out to new members, providing orientation to union benefits, and encouraging new members to become involved in the union’s activities.

The workshop on building strong leaders within the local expanded upon these themes. People become engaged in union activities for a variety of personal reasons. It is important to understand what motivates them and what will sustain that motivation. Building relationships, encouraging volunteerism, fostering a team spirit, and supporting one another’s contributions are all important to building a strong local.

Yet another workshop focused on building relationships with community allies. Often the best way to tackle a big issue facing a local is to form a coalition and work in solidarity with others in pursuit of a common goal. Conversely, a local should always be looking beyond itself to contribute to the broader community through coalition and solidarity work whenever possible.

The fifth workshop focused on building strength at the bargaining table.  Austerity and privatization are leading to an increase in precarious employment. It reinforced the importance of membership building and creating alliances outside of the local, using resources such as social advocacy software and e-petitions. CUPE National is currently developing additional executive training modules to help build strong local responses to employers in this context.

Conference materials are now available at https://cupe.ca/building-strong-locals-conference-materials.

Respectfully submitted,

Clayton Beish and Joanie Crandall

New Jobs Website and Sessional Postings

To find job postings, go to www.usask.ca.  Click on Jobs.  Click on Current Opportunities.  Click on All Positions in the drop-down menu.  If it asks you whether you are presently employed, say No unless you are under contract.  Scroll down to the Advanced Search option.  Click Employment Category.  Check Sessional Lecturer positions in the drop down menu.  Click the Search icon (the little magnifying glass) on the right.

Deadline for Drug and Dental Plan Claims

If you were teaching in Winter Term 2017 your health benefit coverage ends on April 30 unless you continue to be under contract in Term 1 or Quarter 1 of Spring Session. All drug and dental plan claims must be submitted to Sun Life within 90 days of the end of your teaching appointment.

If you have not already been reimbursed for covered expenses incurred between January 1 and April 30, 2017, a claim for reimbursement must be received by Sun Life on or before July 28, 2017. Log into mySunLife.ca or visit Connection Point’s Knowledge Base for more information.

Postings for Fall and Winter Teaching

Job postings for T1 (Fall) and T2 (Winter) will begin on Wednesday, May 3rd, and will continue weekly thereafter.

The postings are online from about 8:30 am Wednesday until 4:30 pm the following Tuesday.

To find postings, go to www.usask.ca.  Click on Jobs.  Click on current opportunities.  Click on All Positions in the drop-down menu.  If it asks you whether you are presently employed, say No unless you are under contract.  Scroll down to the Advanced Search option.  Click Employment Category.  Check Sessional Lecturer positions in the drop down menu.  Click the Search icon (the little magnifying glass.)

Although courses should be posted well before the start of term, last-minute postings do occur, so make a habit of checking for new posts each week.

You can also submit an early application for courses offered by your department. It’s the same form, just tick the early application box at the top. List the courses you would like to teach, in order of preference, even if you are not certain the course is to be taught on a sessional basis. If the department decides to hire a sessional at the last minute, you’ve already applied! If you want to be considered for any and all courses offered by your department, include that statement on the application.

2016 AGM and Elections

The 2016 Annual General Meeting was held on December 8, 2016 at the University Club. An end-of-term supper was held afterwards.

The new Executive elected for 2017 is:

Brian Zamulinski – President

Leslie Walter – Vice President

Rhonda Anderson – Recording Secretary

Clayton Beish – Secretary-Treasurer

Newsletter Editor – Margaret Gail Osachoff

Members-at-large – Heather Wagg

Bill Rafoss, Lisa Broda, Mary Nordick, and Joanie Crandall.

Thanks to everyone who came out!