CUPE 3903 Member FAQ

NEW: CUPE 3903 Return to Work 2018

For Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that have been developed to assist CUPE 3903 Unit 1 and Unit 3 members returning to work please click the following link:



CUPE 3903 FAQs relating to CUPE 3903 trials

CUPE 3903 is embarking upon “trials” for CUPE members who are accused of acting in breach of union bylaws.  We understand this raises concerns for individuals and while we must respect the right of the Union to govern its own internal affairs and administration, we wanted to provide the answers to some frequently asked questions.

I chose to continue to work or returned to work during the strike, and I have received a notice from CUPE 3903 that I am alleged to be in breach of Union by-laws and I am to attend a trial at a scheduled date. Is it my right to choose to work during the strike and can I be fined for doing so?

The Labour Relations Act protects all persons from threats of intimidation, reprisal and coercion (section 76). The Act also provides that while unionized employees have the legal right to strike, individuals also have the express legal right to apply to work during a strikeif they so wish (section 80). Regardless of which option is exercised, everyone has the right to be free from discrimination, intimidation or coercion related to their decision. No intimidation or coercion is allowed to compel someone from exercising any rights under the Act.

The Collective Agreements for Unit 1, 2 and 3 also provide a right for all employees in the bargaining unit to be free from discrimination for political orientation and by reason of membership or non-membership or lawful activity or lack of activity in the union.

While you ought to seek legal advice for yourself with respect to your rights and obligations under the Union Constitution and by-laws, if any, we wanted to note that the Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that a Union cannot enforce an order for an employee to pay fines for electing to work during a strike.  In Birch v. Union of Taxation Employees Local 70030, 2007 CanLII 43894 (Leave to Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada declined) the Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling and held that such a “penalty clause in the constitution is unconscionable and therefore unenforceable”.

If I am expelled from the Union as a result of a trial, am I prevented from working as a TA, contract faculty member or GA and am I excluded from the benefits and funds under the collective agreements?

No. There is no obligation for all employees to be or remain Union members and all rights under the Collective Agreement have application to all employees within the bargaining unit regardless of membership or non-membership. This is true for all wages, benefits, funds, posting and other rights and entitlements. It is illegal for a union to deny or threaten to deny these contractual entitlements to any individual as a reprisal for not participating in strike activities, or for otherwise exercising their rights to maintain and express their own views.

May I participate in Union meetings if I am not a member or have been put on notice for a “trial”?

This is a matter between yourself and the Union.   The Union is, however, legally required to represent all employees in the bargaining unit and must not do so in a manner which is arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith. 

Is there anywhere I can seek assistance to better understand my rights in regard to choosing to work during the strike and how these rights relate to the allegations against me in the trial process?

If you wish to consult with a lawyer, the Law Society of Ontario offers a free referral service. It can be accessed at  You may also wish to contact the Ontario Labour Relations Board with questions.

In the event of a strike will I receive my regular pay?

No. Effective the first day of the strike, pay will be halted for striking employees represented by CUPE 3903 Units 1, 2 and 3. Pay will not resume for employees who remain on strike.

In the event of a strike am I able to return to work even if the strike has not ended?

During the Winter 2018 term employees represented by CUPE Units 1 or 2 were able to  declare their desire to return to teaching activities by completing an on-line form through the CUPE hiring website. The normal winter 2018 term has ended.

As of May 8 2018, CUPE members are not able to  declare their desire to return to work during the disruption as this is a new term with new teaching assignments. Due to the on-going labour disruption the CUPE 3903 hiring process for the summer is suspended and no declarations are necessary.

Will my scholarship and research assistantship funding be continued in the event of a strike?

Yes, scholarship and research assistantship funding will continue as these sources of graduate student funding are not covered by the collective agreement with CUPE 3903.

Does the Senate Policy on Academic Implications of Disruptions or Cessations of University Business Due to Labour Disputes or Other Causes prohibit CUPE 3903 members from returning to work in the event of a strike?

No, the Senate Policy states that students who elect not to participate in academic activities due to a disruption will not be penalized. The Senate policy does not apply to employees.

In the event of a strike, who should I speak to about my strike pay?

Please contact CUPE 3903. York does not process strike pay.

In the event of a strike, who should I contact for other information.

Please contact CUPE 3903. York does not process strike pay.

Note that CUPE 3903 has a hardship fund members can apply for. Details can be found at