The University of Toronto can be a great place to work. But it is not always a great place to work for. Every CUPE 3902 member has at least one story about what it can be like, and it can be positively harrowing: discrimination, harassment, even assault. The Grievance Officer is entrusted with the stories that can be the most difficult to tell: entrusted to do something with them. Having served as the Grievance Officer since January 2018, I have heard many stories, and I have made sure that, whenever practicable, we did something with them: individual grievances, group grievances, policy grievances.
But there was still more that we could do. I streamlined Grievance Committee meetings, in order to expand the committee’s political role: drafting changes to the Compendium of Policies regarding the Grievor Support Fund and grievance-related travel expenses reimbursement that will benefit many members, coordinating with Stewards’ Council to collect information from members regarding working conditions, and participating in DDAH audits, to name a few. The next priority will be to draft a bylaw amendment to create an appeals process, whereby a member could appeal a decision not to carry forward a grievance.
I also began to implement a training programme for Grievance Committee members. I, too, have been pursuing additional training, including the CUPE Labour Law course. However, there are some situations for which training alone cannot prepare you. Last summer, our Local experienced a staffing shortage. Consequently, I stepped in to interview members regarding potential grievances, prepare grievance case files, submit hiring inquiries, and so on. Then, when new Staff Representatives joined our team, I helped them to adjust to the idiosyncrasies of our sector and of our Local.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a similarly unexpected situation. I have coordinated with Grievance Divisional Stewards to raise awareness of responses to these unprecedented circumstances from both the Employer and our Local. I have continued to meet with members and Staff Representatives remotely to keep the gears of the grievance process turning. The Grievance Committee also convened remotely to continue training. Finally, I helped to develop the proposal for a COVID-19 Emergency Fund.
The Grievance Officer must have experience across the breadth of units that compose our Local, and working on cases for members from almost every unit has built on an existing depth of experience from serving as the Chair of the Unit 3 Bargaining Support Committee (2017-18), a member of the Unit 1 Bargaining Support Committee (2018) and the Unit 3 Collective Agreement Implementation Committee (2018-19), a Departmental Steward for the ICCIT at UTM (2017-18), and a Grievance Divisional Steward (2017-18). I have collaborated with other members to begin to address lingering issues inside and outside our Local, via the Anti-Oppression Consultant Ad-Hoc Working Group, the Workers with Disabilities Caucus, and the Unit 3 Precarity Working Group. I have consistently pushed for inter-unit solidarity, having served on both the Unit 1 and Unit 3 Labour-Management Committees, and helped to coordinate with other campus and labour organizations to mobilize against Doug Ford and the austerity agenda.
In short, I have the knowledge, passion, experience, and commitment to continue to serve as your Grievance Officer. Our Local has evolved considerably over the past few years, and I have been at the centre of many of those changes.