​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Certification, Union Application, Voting​

Second CUPE 3902 Unit 5 Collective Agre​ement Ratified

The second collective agreement between the University of Toronto and CUPE 3902 Unit 5 was ratified on May 29, 2017; the terms of this agreement are in place until December 31, 2019. You can view the first collective agreement and the memorandum of agreement on the Human Resources & Equity website​.

Change to Employment Status for Postdoctoral Fellows in CUPE Bargaining Unit

September 6, 2013

The Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) has now issued the Certificate confirming that CUPE has exclusive bargaining rights with respect to employees in the following bargaining unit:

All persons employed as Postdoctoral Fellows by the University of Toronto in the City of Toronto and the City of Mississauga and registered as Postdoctoral Fellows with the School of Graduate Studies save and except:

  • persons who exercise managerial functio​ns or who are employed in a confidential capacity in matters related to labour relations;

  • persons for whom any other trade union holds bargaining rights under the Labour Relations Act;

  • and Postdoctoral Fellows who apply for and are awarded funding from any source other than the University of Toronto including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR, or foundations such as the Mellon Foundation.

NOTE 1: Postdoctoral Fellows who receive their stipends through a hospital are not included in the bargaining unit.

NOTE 2: Postdoctoral Fellows are included in the bargaining unit notwithstanding the exclusion in 3. above where:

(a) at the time after they first commence employment with the University of Toronto as a Postdoctoral Fellow, they are receiving funding solely from the University of Toronto so as to be in the bargaining unit;

(b) they subsequently apply for and are awarded additional funding from any source other than the University of Toronto; and

(c) the additional funding in (b) above is less than the funding that the Postdoctoral Fellow is continuing to receive from the University of Toronto.

The OLRB had ruled on January 20, 2012 that PDFs in this kind of bargaining unit could be considered employees for the purposes of the Labour Relations Act.

Please visit the Human Resources & Equity website to view a memo concerning this change of status, as well as for more information regarding employment.​

Voting  ​– CUPE Application for Trade Union Certification of Postdoctoral Fellows


Date: April 25, 2013

To: Postdoctoral Fellows

Cheryl Misak, Vice-President & Provost
Paul Young, Vice President, Research and Innovation
Brian Corman, Dean, School of Graduate Studies and Vice-Provost, Graduate Education

The Ontario Labour Relations Board (“OLRB”) has ordered that a vote on the CUPE application for trade union certification of Postdoctoral Fellows take place on Friday, April 26, 2013, at the following locations and times:

  • Main Lobby, Medical Sciences Building, 1 King’s College Circle, Toronto, Ontario Hours: 10:00 a.m to 3:30 p.m.

  • The Meeting Place, UTM, Davis Building, 3359 Mississauga Road North, Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

  • The Meeting Place, UTSC, 1265 Military Trail Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

The University requested an additional polling location on the St. George campus, longer hours at each location and a vote spread over two days, so that all Postdoctoral Fellows would have ample opportunity to cast their ballot. These requests were not ordered by the Ontario Labour Relations Board (“OLRB”) and this Friday, April 26 is the only opportunity for Postdoctoral Fellows to cast their ballots on this important matter.

The outcome of the vote will be determined by a majority of those casting ballots, not a majority of those eligible to vote. Thus, although there are almost 900 Postdoctoral Fellows, if only 100 vote and 51 of those vote in favour of CUPE, those 51 will determine the outcome for all 900 Postdoctoral Fellows. We therefore urge you to attend at one of the polling stations at the locations and times above and cast your ballot. We also ask that you advise other Postdoctoral Fellows of the vote details and urge them to participate as well. It is important that this decision be made by as representative a group of Postdoctoral Fellows as possible.

We have received a number of inquiries on who is eligible to vote and which Postdoctoral Fellows are included and excluded in the Union’s proposed bargaining unit. That matter has not yet been decided. It is important to understand that it is the OLRB, not the University, who will determine what the voting constituency will be and what the proper interpretation of the bargaining unit applied for will be. If you have any doubt about whether you fall within the proposed bargaining unit, you should vote. The University has requested that ballots be segregated (in a way that preserves the secrecy of the actual vote cast), so that differences in interpretation regarding the proposed bargaining unit, and what bargaining unit is appropriate, can be sorted out later, after the vote. The OLRB has agreed with the University’s request in this matter.

In addition, the OLRB i​​n its Notice of Vote and Hearing (Form B-2) advises that: “If employees believe that they are eligible to vote, or have any question as to their eligibility to vote, they should attend at a polling place and identify themselves to the Board Officer conducting the vote. If an employee's eligibility to vote is unclear or in dispute, the employee will be given an opportunity to mark a ballot, but it will be segregated. This means that the ballot will be sealed in a separate envelope until the employee's eligibility to vote has been determined.” [emphasis added]

Copies of all the OLRB Notices are being posted across the University on department posting boards and are on the Labour Relations section of www.h​

Please read this material and check this website regularly for updates. If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact Mary Ann McConkey, Director of Labour Relations at mary​​​ or at 416-978-0465.​​

Union Application

April 24, 2013


A Trade Union Has Applied To Represent You In Your Relations With The University

On Friday April 19, 2013 the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) filed an application with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (“OLRB”) to be certified as the exclusive bargaining agent for a large subset of Postdoctoral Fellows (PDFs) at the University. If the OLRB orders a vote, it will likely order it to take place this Friday April 26, 2013 at specified times and locations on the St. George, UTM, and UTSC campuses. The union has also requested a polling station at the Institute for Aerospace Studies in Downsview. We will communicate with you further once we have further details from the OLRB regarding the vote

What Unionization Would Mean

We wrote to you in March regarding the process of unionization in Ontario, and will not repeat that information.

The key point is that if CUPE were certified as the exclusive bargaining agent, it would represent you in all the terms and conditions of your appointment, and individual arrangements with the University would no longer be possible. It would have the right to negotiate a first collective agreement with the University, the terms of which cannot be predicted. It would also have the right to collect union dues, to go on strike, and to take other actions. Because the nature of your relationship with the University would change to being an employee, there would be deductions directly from your stipend for income tax, CPP (Canada Pension Plan), and EI (Employment Insurance) premiums. Unionization would not result in increased funding being available from external sources.

Unionization Is A Very Important Decision – Some Things To Consider

Trade unions typically make all kinds of promises about what advantages unionization would bring. By law, the University is prohibited from making such promises. And, in any event what would actually happen would depend on what was agreed to in collective bargaining, not what the trade union promised. As extremely well educated academics you are used to scrutinizing evidence carefully. ​When you do so, you may want to consider the following:​

  • Will having a union help you in advancing the goals of your fellowship, or does it run the risk of complicating those goals? 

  • Will it make it easier or more difficult to compete within Canada or internationally for ongoing positions when you have completed the goals of your fellowship and it ends?

  • Have you confirmed what union dues CUPE would require you to pay from your stipend? (Other CUPE units at the University have deductions ranging from 1.5% to 2.5% of income.)

  • Have you considered what would happen to your research progress and other activities if CUPE went on strike?

  • Have you read CUPE’s constitution and considered what it says regarding the rights of members, the possibility of discipline, or the possibility of fines?

  • Would you prefer the ability to deal directly with your Principal Investigator regarding the terms and conditions of your fellowship, or would you rather they be dealt with in a collective agreement administered by a trade union?

  • Have you considered statutory deductions from your stipend for Income Tax, CPP, and EI? For example, a single Postdoctoral Fellow receiving a stipend of $38,500 would likely have to contribute over $2,000 for CPP and EI.

  • Do you think that having a trade union represent you will advance your career aspirations?

The University trusts your judgement and will respect your decision, one way or another.

The Nature Of The Relationship

Currently, the arrangement you have entered into with the University is not structured as an employment relationship. At some universities where the Postdoctoral Fellows are not unionized, it has been agreed in discussions with them to treat a subset of them as employees. At the University of Toronto, our Postdoctoral Fellows have not had such discussions with the University or sought to limit or change the independence of the current arrangements.

The Importance of Voting

If a vote is ordered by the OLRB, we will let you know the details. It will be a secret ballot vote. No one will know how you vote. Proxies will not be permitted – you will have to attend in person. The outcome of the vote will be determined by a majority of those who actually cast ballots. To take an example, if a proposed bargaining unit consisted of 400 people and only 100 people vote, the outcome for everyone could be determined by 51 people casting ballots in favour of the trade union.

What are the University’s Views?

The University is permitted by law to express its views regarding unionization. The University has many collective agreements with different trade unions covering various groups of employees. It is not an anti-union employer. Indeed, the University has worked successfully with CUPE and other unions in negotiating and administering collective agreements. Strikes have been rare. However, in the case of Postdoctoral Fellows, the University thinks that unionization is not well-suited to the unique interests of this very special and very important group. For example, the University does not think that unionization will somehow expand external funding or create new and unexpected funding available for postdoctoral research. The University does not think that unionization will somehow result in better research, or an enhanced reputation, or greater opportunities in academia, research or industry when the fellowship ends. Sometimes the flexibility of individual relationships is better suited to the dynamics of certain relationships, and the University believes this to be one such case. The relationship between a Postdoctoral Fellow and a supervisor is a close one, and across the University, despite basics that are common to all, there are many individual arrangements that have been worked out. In our view, a collective agreement is not the best way of structuring the relationship between a Postdoctoral Fellow and his or her Principal Investigator.

Final Thoughts

The University values all of its Postdoctoral Fellows very highly. As you pursue your own research goals, and collaborate with leading faculty members, you have a significant influence on the excellence of research at the University both now and in the future. The University is proud of your contributions and proud to have you as a research colleague. The University knows that you will consider the issue of unionization very carefully, and it thanks you for doing so thoughtfully before casting a ballot (assuming a vote is ordered). Please vote, and please know that the University will respect whatever choice you make.


Paul Young, Vice President Research and Innovation
Cheryl Misak, Vice President and Provost
​Brian Corman, Dean of Graduate Studies and Vice-Provost, Graduate Education​​

Unionization – Background and ​Points to Consider​


March 18, 2013

This message is being sent on behalf of:

​Paul Young, Vice-President, Research and Innovation
Brian Corman, Vice-Provost, Graduate Education.

Last year, the ballots cast by Postdoctoral Fellows in a secret ballot vote conducted by the Ontario Labour Relations Board were counted, and a majority of Postdoctoral Fellows decided that they did not want to be represented by CUPE in their relations with the University. By operation of the Labour Relations Act, CUPE was barred for a year from re-applying for certification for that bargaining unit.

The year ends on March 22, 2013. After that date CUPE can apply again to become the “certified bargaining agent” to represent all or a subset of you in your dealings with the University. This memo will give you some background about how the certification process works. It will also raise some questions for you to consider if you are approached by CUPE to sign a union card.

The Process of Unionization in Ontario

Under the Labour Relations Act a trade union such as CUPE may apply to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (“OLRB”) to be “certified” as the exclusive bargaining agent for a defined unit of employees (a “bargaining unit”) in their relationship with their employer. In order to apply for certification, the trade union must demonstrate that it has at least 40% support in the proposed bargaining unit. It demonstrates such support by producing evidence of signed union membership cards.

If at least 40% in the proposed bargaining unit have signed cards, the OLRB will order a secret ballot vote. If the trade union gets votes in the secret ballot vote from 50% plus one of those casting ballots, it is entitled to be certified as the exclusive bargaining agent. You can see how important it is for you to consider the issues carefully before you decide whether or not to sign a union membership card, as well as to ensure that you cast a ballot if a vote is ordered.

The OLRB has already determined in the previous application for certification filed by CUPE that, under labour law, a defined group of Postdoctoral Fellows could be considered to be “employees” even though that is not the way the University has treated them, and it is not how they are described in their terms of engagement with the University or under University policy.

If CUPE were certified to represent Postdoctoral Fellows, there would be negotiations for a collective agreement, which would set the mandatory terms and conditions of employment for all the Postdoctoral Fellows in the bargaining unit. Individual contracts would no longer be permitted. Almost all collective agreements contain provisions for mandatory deduction of union dues, a prohibition against strikes or lockouts during the term of the collective agreement (they can occur after it expires), and a grievance procedure. Most of the other provisions vary depending on the bargain the employer and the union reach.

Questions to Consider

There are a number of questions that you might consider asking before making a decision about whether or not to sign a union card. For example (and these are just a few of the questions):

  • Will having a union help you in advancing the goals of your fellowship?

  • Will it make it easier or more difficult to compete within Canada or internationally for ongoing positions when your fellowship ends?

  • What level of union dues would you be required to pay?

  • Have you considered the possibility of labour disruptions such as strikes or lockouts?

  • Have you read CUPE’s constitution? What does it say about the rights of members, about discipline of members, fines, and similar issues?

  • Would you prefer to deal directly with your research supervisor regarding issues and concerns in your fellowship, or do you think you may need an intermediary such as a union?

  • Overall, what is the cost/benefit analysis of joining a trade union in terms of your long term career aspirations?

Whatever the answer to these and other questions, the choice about unionization is yours. You alone can decide whether you want or need a trade union to represent your interests.

The University is prohibited by labour law from making promises about future treatment of Postdoctoral Fellows during an organizing campaign. The trade union is not subject to similar constraints. But in any event any promises would be subject to collective bargaining that would occur if the union were certified as your bargaining agent, and the union cannot guarantee in advance what the terms of a collective agreement might be.

So, we suggest that you apply your research skills to scrutinize carefully any promises that are made, and to consider if unionization is consistent with the way you want your fellowship to work. We hope that you will make your decision carefully and that you not view unionization as a short term experiment.

Finally, the University wants it to be clear that it values all of its Postdoctoral Fellows very highly and it takes its obligations towards you very seriously. As you pursue your research goals, and collaborate with leading faculty members, you have a significant influence on the excellence of research at the University both now and in the future. The University is proud of your contribution.

The University thanks you for your thoughtful and careful assessment of unionization. It will respect any choice that you make. We will stay in touch.

Paul Young, Vice-President, Research and Innovation
Brian Corman, Vice-Provost, Graduate Education

c. Provost​

​Tax Update ​​

T2202A Forms

July 10, 2010

Status update on the University’s request for a ruling on issuing ​T2202A fo​rms

After a lengthy delay, Canada Revenue Agency ("CRA") has responded to the University's requests for clarification regarding the income tax status of postdoctoral fellows (PDFs). CRA's response is contained in a document called a "technical interpretation" that is dated June 22, 2010. The letter sets out CRA views as to the tax status of PDFs for years prior to 2010, and in particular the years 2006-2009.

For some time, there has been considerable uncertainty in the academic community as to the income tax status of PDFs. A number of PDFs have asked the University of Toronto to issue T2202A tax forms so that they could claim the potential tax benefits that are associated with these forms. In order for the University to issue valid T2202A forms, a number of legal requirements must be satisfied. In particular, a recipient of a T2202A must be a student who is enrolled in a "qualifying educational program", as defined in the Income Tax Act. In 2008, the University's tax advisors contacted CRA to ask if it would be possible to obtain an "advance income tax ruling" regarding the income tax rules that apply to PDFs. An advance income tax ruling is binding on both CRA and the taxpayers involved. CRA replied that they were not prepared to issue a binding ruling regarding the PDFs, apparently because of the significant nature of the factual determinations that would be involved. Page one of the CRA technical interpretation notes that our tax advisor's request for a binding ruling was declined.

In 2008, CRA did indicate that they were prepared to issue a "technical interpretation" regarding PDFs and educational institutions. Technical interpretations are intended to provide taxpayers with general guidance regarding tax issues. Technical interpretations are issued on a "no-names basis" and they are not binding on taxpayers or the CRA.

The University's tax advisors submitted a written request for a technical interpretation to CRA in November of 2008. This request included submissions to the effect that PDFs should be eligible to receive T2202A forms. Our submissions also asserted that non-teaching stipends paid to PDFs could qualify as tax exempt income pursuant to the exemption for "scholarships, fellowships and bursaries" that is contained in subsection 56(3) of the Income Tax Act. CRA refers to this provision as the "scholarship exemption".

CRA considered the matter for over 18 months before issuing a written response. The apparent reason for this delay was that the income tax treatment of PDFs raised significant policy issues that required extensive internal consultation within the Federal Government.

Notwithstanding the lengthy delay, the June 22, 2010 technical interpretation does not contain any definitive conclusions regarding the tax status of PDFs. The document states that the income tax treatment of each PDF is a question of fact that must be determined on a case by case basis taking into account all of the relevant facts of the individual's situation. 

The general guidance from CRA that is contained in the June 22, 2010 technical interpretation indicates that CRA does not accept that PDFs qualify for the scholarship exemption for the years 2006-2009. First, CRA states that it does not generally consider PDFs to be "students" as that term is used in the Income Tax Act. The letter also states that even if a PDF was a student who was entitled to the education tax credit, "in many or most cases" the income received by the PDF will not be entitled to the scholarship tax exemption because "it will not be sufficiently connected to an educational program for which an educational tax credit is available". The letter also notes that PDFs could also be ineligible for the scholarship exemption because they may be employees or recipients of research grants.

It seems that the technical interpretation is directed at the broader Canadian academic community, including institutions whose PDF programs may be materially different from the University of Toronto's own program. The CRA document contains assumptions and observations that were not raised by the University of Toronto or its tax advisors and that appear to be drawn by CRA from other sources. The University of Toronto wishes to point out that CRA's views regarding PDF programs in general do not necessarily apply to the University's own PDF program.

Page 4 of the CRA letter states that "We can confirm that where the tax return of a post-doctoral fellow is reviewed by the CRA, a claim for the full scholarship exemption will generally be denied." Again, this seems to be a general comment that applies to all Canadian PDF programs, regardless of their specific legal structure. The possibility of an adverse reassessment should not be a concern for University of Toronto PDFs since the University has not issued T2202A's for the years 2006-2009.

As indicated in the CRA letter, the 2010 federal budget expressly precludes PDFs from claiming the scholarship exemption for years after 2009.

In view of the contents of the technical interpretation, and in particular CRA's statement that it will generally reassess PDFs to deny the full scholarship exemption for the years 2006-2009, the University of Toronto has concluded that it would not be appropriate to issue T2202As to PDFs for 2009 or any prior taxation years.

Due to the 2010 amendment, as described above, the University will also not be issuing T2202As for 2010 or subsequent years.

Please note that the University is not in a position to provide legal or tax advice to individual PDFs and all interested parties are urged to consult their own professional tax advisors.​

Budget ​Changes Scholarship Exemption & Education Tax Credit for Postdocs

March 30, 2010

The federal government has announced in their 2010 budget the following changes to the Scholarship Exemption and Education Tax Credit: “Budget 2010 (under “Scholarship Exemption and Education Tax Credit”) proposes to clarify that a post-secondary program that consists principally of research will be eligible for the Education Tax Credit, and the scholarship exemption, only if it leads to a college or CEGEP diploma, or a bachelor, masters or doctoral degree (or an equivalent degree). Accordingly, post-doctoral fellowships will be taxable.” This will apply to the 2010 and subsequent taxation years. The University of Toronto has requested a technical interpretation of the income tax treatment of postdoctoral fellows from the CRA for 2009 and prior tax years.

​ ​​

Green Shield Plan Benefit​​

Provisions Improved

July 2010

In collaboration with Green Shield Canada, and with input from the University of Toronto Postdoctoral Association (UTPDA), we are happy to announce that the Green Shield Plan benefit provisions have been improved.

Postdoc Benefit Plan Change

The following improvements will be implemented to your Green Shield benefit plan, effective August 1, 2010, with no change in the premiums you pay.

  1. Drug plan co-pay: Amend the drug plan to provide for a co-pay of 20% on all drug claims instead of the current 40% co-pay on the first $500 of claims. This change will take place for all eligible drug claims incurred on or after August 1, 2010.

  2. Drug claim maximum: Increase the annual maximum for drug claims from the current $2,000 to $5,000 per calendar year. If you have already reached your $2,000 maximum for 2010 year, you will now be able to submit new claims incurred on or after August 1, 2010, up to the new annual maximum i.e. – an additional $3,000 for the remainder of the current calendar year (January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010).

  3. Prescription eyewear: Add coverage for prescription eyewear to a maximum of $125 every 24 months for eligible claims incurred on or after August 1, 2010. Please note that current eye exam coverage and the new vision care coverage are based on a 24-month period from date of the first eligible claim submitted.

  4. Dental claims: Increase the annual maximum for dental claims from the current $500 to $1,000 per calendar year. If you have already reached the current $500 maximum, you will be able to submit new claims incurred on or after August 1, 2010, up to the new annual maximum; i.e., an additional $500 for the remainder of the current calendar year.

Effective January 1, 2011: these new maximums will apply to all claims incurred for the Plan Year 2011 (January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011). The plan document will be revised shortly to reflect these changes.

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