McMaster Teaching and Research Assistants vote “yes” to ensure high-quality academic jobs on campus

Brad WalchukUnit 1 Bargaining

Teaching assistants (TAs) and research assistants in lieu (RAs) at McMaster University stand united in their fight to ensure high-quality academic jobs for over twenty-five hundred student academic workers.

In a historic strike vote held earlier this week, 90% of TAs and RAs voted “yes” to send a strong message to the university’s administration. TAs and RAs are demanding that McMaster table a fair and reasonable offer to protect students from tuition increases, address their concerns about the rising cost of living in Hamilton and a lack of work opportunities for graduate students, and to end inequitable wages between undergraduate and graduate TAs.

“Academic workers at McMaster are demanding better,” said Chris Fairweather, president of CUPE Local 3906. “The status quo of limited job security and inadequate wages is no longer sustainable for our members, especially when any wage increases can be clawed back by tuition hikes.” TAs and RAs at McMaster – nearly all of whom are students and pay tuition to McMaster – are facing once-in-a-generation inflation and raising house costs in Hamilton, yet wages and funding packages remain stagnant, inequitable, and unable to support student workers for the duration of their studies.

Your elected bargaining team is calling on the administration at McMaster to table a proposal that offers protection against future tuition increases, recognizes the job insecurity faced by graduate student-workers, and ends a significant wage discrepancy between undergraduate and graduate teaching.

“Not only are the proposals we have tabled around protections against tuition increases and extended work guarantees for graduate students reasonable and well within McMaster’s means, they also exist at many other comparable universities in Ontario” added Fairweather.

CUPE 3906 is seeking protections against future tuition increases in the form of a reimbursement, like those at the University of Ottawa and Carleton, and extended work guarantees for graduate students, similar to those that exist at the University of Toronto, York, and Carleton.

“With this strike vote, our members are overwhelmingly clear: we will not accept a contract that is more of the same and which fails to recognize the growing challenges and realities we face in simply getting by. We demand better of McMaster,” Fairweather explained.

A positive strike vote does not mean that TAs and RAs are on strike, nor does it set a date for a strike. It authorizes the bargaining team to call a strike in the event that talks break down at the bargaining table and after a provincial “no board” report has been issued. Further updates will be sent to your McMaster email accounts.

Quick Facts:

  • Since 2016, McMaster University’s yearly consolidated surpluses have totalled over $730 million
  • Despite representing roughly 1/3rd of McMaster’s total workforce, TA wages make-up just 3.7% of McMaster’s total payroll
  • While the average yearly rent in Hamilton has gone up $4,572 since 2019, the maximum yearly gross pay for graduate student TAs/RAs in lieu at McMaster has increased by only $575.87
  • Doug Ford’s Bill 124 capped wage increases for TAs/RAs to 1% per year for 3 years starting in 2019. Had these wages kept pace with inflation during that time, TAs/RAs in lieu would be earning $5/hour more than they are today
  • The wage gap between undergraduate and graduate TAs is nearly $19 per hour, despite both groups performing equivalent work
  • CUPE 3906, Unit 1 represents over 2500 TAs and RAs (in lieu) per year – nearly all of whom are students

For more information, please contact:

Chris Fairweather, President, CUPE 3906 –

Mary Ellen Campbell, Chief Negotiator, CUPE 3906 –