organize for equity

organize for equity

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Pregnancy & Parental Leave: Important Changes

There have been some important changes to the Employment Standards Act (Province of Ontario statute) and the Employment Insurance regulations (Federal level) that provide CUPE 3903 members with more time and options for pregnancy and parental leaves.

The Ontario government website has a helpful and detailed overview on Pregnancy and Parental Leaves. Service Canada also has a detailed FAQ on EI and Parental Leave. Here is a quick summary though of the benefits  (some new, some ongoing), much of it copied from both of the preceding links. 

  • Pregnancy leave is still 17 weeks unpaid (see your collective agreement though as you have paid leave entitlements there)
  • Birth mothers who take pregnancy leave are entitled to up to 61 weeks’ leave. Birth mothers who do not take pregnancy leave and all other new parents are entitled to up to 63 weeks’ parental leave.
  • Parental leave is not part of pregnancy leave and so a birth mother may take both pregnancy and parental leave. 
  • In addition, the right to a parental leave is independent of the right to pregnancy leave. For example, a birth father could be on parental leave at the same time the birth mother is on either her pregnancy leave or parental leave
  • If you have reached 600 hours of EI insurable work hours in the 12 month period before your leave, you can get EI benefits. (see you collective agreement for the supplemental EI benefits program, which is your York paid leave plus your EI leave)
  • EI parental benefits are offered to parents who are caring for a newborn or newly adopted child or children.There are two options available for receiving parental benefits: standard or extended:
      • Standard parental benefits can be paid for a maximum of 35 weeks and must be claimed within a 52-week period (12 months) after the week the child was born or placed for the purpose of adoption. The benefits are available to biological, adoptive, or legally recognized parents at a weekly benefit rate of 55% of the claimant’s average weekly insurable earnings up to a maximum amount. The two parents can share these 35 weeks of standard parental benefits.
      • Extended parental benefits can be paid for a maximum of 61 weeks and must be claimed within a 78-week period (18 months) after the week the child was born or placed for the purpose of adoption. The benefits are available to biological, adoptive, or legally recognized parents at a weekly benefit rate of 33% of the claimant’s average weekly insurable earnings up to a maximum amount. The two parents can share these 61 weeks of extended parental benefits.
Questions? Need assistance? Please contact me at the Union office.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Finding Therapists, Counselors and Crisis Lines: Some Contacts

CUPE 3903 members may need to talk with a therapist or counselor for a range of reasons. Sometimes it is hard to figure out how to find one. This post is a list of compiled contacts to assist with that. They are offered below as resources, without any one of them being specifically recommended.

Your Sun Life Benefits plan covers a number of different types of therapists. See the Sun Life Benefits Booklet, p. 15 for more information.

1) York University:

Personal Counselling Services: free short-term counselling & crisis intervention. You must be a York student.

> As of Aug. 2/17, "York University’s Sexual Violence Response Office is partnering with the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic to provide enhanced access to personal counselling services for community members who disclose or report sexual violence experienced while registered and/or employed at York." (Yfile - Aug 2/17). Members can contact the Sexual Violence Response Office to access this.

> York University EFAP (Employee and Family Assistance Program) - free to all members.
1.844.880 9142 and TTY 1.877.338.0275 

> York University Psychology Clinic: 416.650.8488

2) General:

Ontario Psychological Association - Find a Psychologist

Psychotherapy Referral Service

Ontario Association of Social Workers - Find a Social Worker

3) List of QTPOC* Therapists 

Farzana Doctor

Ricky Varghese

Michel’e Bertrand

Val Takeda

Ashraf Ahmed 647-215-4050


Nadia Saad, 647 939 6265

(compiled by Farzana Doctor)

4) Crisis Line Resources for Sexual Violence Survivors and Allies

1.     Good2Talk line for post-secondary students at 1-866-925-5454, 24/7
2.     Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape 24 /7 Ph: 416-597-8808
3.     LGBTQ Youth Line 4:00-9:30 PM Sunday-Friday. Toll-Free: 1.800.268.9688 / In the Toronto Area:416.962.9688. Text :647.694.4275. TTY: 416.962.0777 E-mail:
4.     Trans Lifeline 1 (877) 330-6366  Hotline staffed by transgender people for transgender people.
5.     Support Service for Male Survivors of Sexual Assault: 24/7 Ph: 1-888-887-0015

 (compiled by Farrah Khan) 

5) Hassle Free Clinic Psychotherapy Referral List

*QTPOC - Queer Trans People of Colour

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

OHRC Inquiry report on systemic barriers to academic accommodation for post-secondary students with mental health disabilities

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has just released an inquiry report of significant interest to many CUPE 3903 members.

With Learning in Mind is a research report on systemic obstacles to seeking and achieving academic accommodation for graduate student with mental health disabilities, at colleges and universities across the province. I think the effects of this work will go beyond mental health-related needs and speak to processes for all types of disability accommodation.

This systemic work arose from a HRTO complaint filed by a York University graduate student.  As a result of the settlement,"...the OHRC wrote to all public colleges and universities in Ontario asking them to implement six specific measures to reduce systemic barriers to post-secondary education for students with mental health disabilities." (5). These measures are:

1. Eliminate mandatory disclosure of diagnosis
2. Provide interim accommodations
3. Accommodate temporary mental health disabilities
4. Consider retroactive accommodations where appropriate
5. Arrange for accommodation through centralized process
6. Implement clear communications and training (5-8)

The report provides an overview of the success of  colleges and universities at complying with and implementing these measures. There is also a section of the report that addresses the need for doctors' professional development so they are better equipped to provide the type of documentation required for accommodations.

Your Union continues to make important efforts through grievance/arbitration and bargaining to realize these measure at York. If you are having difficulties achieving academic and/or workplace accommodations, do get in touch with us as we can certainly assist you!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Under suspicion: Racial profiling in Ontario

The title of this post is from a new report released from the Ontario Human Rights Commission: Under suspicion: Research and consultation report on racial profiling in Ontario.

What is particularly important about this research is the compiled evidence of how racial profiling as a form of systemic racism extends way beyond Police activities, causing harm to racialized people in many settings:

"Many participants told us they regularly experienced racial profiling in retail and private businesses, for example. People reported being racially profiled by various systems, organizations and institutions – education, retail, child welfare, transportation, private security, national security and other areas. Consultation participants commonly named multiple experiences of racial profiling and racial discrimination in more than one sector." (7)

Racialized CUPE 3903 members frequently report  profiling as a '"normal"' mode of operation in their workplace as well (7). So, collective Union work, like that of the Anti-Racism Workshop & Training Working Group is extremely important.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Employment Insurance: Eligibility of CUPE 3903 Members

Any questions when you get through this? Please find contact info at the bottom.

Who is eligible?

All workers who have accumulated enough hours of work paying into Employment Insurance (EI) and who are out of work for reasons beyond their control are eligible to claim benefits.

How many hours do you need?

Regular EI benefits:

The number depends on several factors. If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, the March 2017 minimum is 630 hours in the 52 weeks prior to becoming unemployed. This period is called the “qualifying” period). As the Service Canada sites states:

"The qualifying period is the shorter of:
  • the 52-week period immediately before the start date of your claim; or
  • the period from the start of a previous benefit period to the start of your new benefit period, if you applied for benefits earlier and your application was approved in the last 52 weeks."
It is different in different areas because the government bases the figure on the local official employment rate. The (official) unemployment rate for the GTA is currently 7.2% but if it decreases the 630 hour figure increases.

Other EI benefits:

The eligibility number is "600 insurable hours to qualify for sickness, maternity, parental, compassionate care, or parents of critically ill children benefits."

How do hours work for TAs and CDs

The Unit 1 and 2 CAs say: “For employment insurance purposes only a course instructor for a 6 credit course will be deemed to have worked 535 hours. Other assignments will be prorated.”

This means a full CD is 535 hours and a full TA is 356 hours. Within 5 days of your contract end, York must issue a Record of Employment (ROE) to Service Canada to document and prove this.

How much are the benefits?

Benefits are paid at 55% of your average weekly earning (based on the 14 best weeks of earnings in the last 52 weeks) to a weekly maximum of $543, as of January 1, 2017. There are no benefits paid for the first two weeks of unemployment.

How long do benefits last?

This also depends on the local unemployment rate and your total hours worked in a qualifying period. In Toronto the range is currently 17 to 40 weeks. You can look up where you fall, based on your hours on your ROE, on the Service Canada site.

When did I start and stop work?

That depends on the contract. Currently York contract end dates are the end of the month (e.g. April 30). For the Fall term, contracts run from Sept. 1 - Dec. 31, and for the Winter from Jan. 1 - Apr. 30. For the summer term, the dates can vary depending on the length of the course so check your contract.

While on benefits what do I do?

You are required to be available for employment and be actively looking for work. These are separate criteria.

“Available” means that if someone offered you a job tomorrow you would take it. That’s why you cannot claim benefits while out of the country.

“Actively looking” means that are doing everything reasonable to find work in your general field in which you found work before. Since part-time academics have established a pattern of work as part-time academics, you are allowed to restrict your search to academic work, at least for the first few months of benefits. After that, the government will expect you to broaden your search to related kinds of work.

Questions? Need help applying?

Contact CUPE 3903 at 416-736-5154 and speak to one of us:

Raj Virk (x5) Staff Representative,

Sandra Hudson (x4) Staff Representative,

Sheila Wilmot (x3) Equity Officer,

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Planning for Retirement on a Low-Income": A Resource

A Unit 2 member passed on to me this important resource, researched and compiled on behalf of Open Policy Ontario (a blog by John Stapleton) and other partners. 

I think many members with low or decreasing incomes will find it very useful. The focus in this paper on Planning for Retirement on a Low-Income is on Maximizing GIS or the federal Guaranteed Income Supplement. 

It helps you think ahead on contributing to RRSPs and/or non-registered savings funds, as the former is not always the best option for low-income people as you can be excluded from making the most of all the federal funds you should have the right to access.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Caregiver of a child or parent? Then you should know about Family Status Accommodations

The Ontario Human Rights Code sets out family status as a ground protected from discrimination. Family status means the parent-child relationship. So, if you have children or are providing care to one or more parents, you may well need accommodation.

York must provide you with an accommodation process, and the University has a duty to accommodate you to the point of undue hardship. This applies both to you as an employee, and to your student relationship with York.

Examples of accommodations may include flexibility in work scheduling, and assignment extensions. In the accommodation process all reasonable options need to be explored. All you have to do to start the process is to make a request for a family status accommodation. You will need to provide an explanation as to what workplace or academic practice,rule or structure is interfering with meeting your care obligations, and you may need to provide some documentation to prove the parent\child relationship.

York has a process outlined in their Accommodating Family Status and Breastfeeding webpage. To help implement your Article 4 collective agreement protections, the Union has negotiated with York a protocol specifically for CUPE 3903 members, which you can find under Family Status Accommodation on our website.

Family status accommodations processes are generally challenging for members to access so please contact the Union for assistance if needed!