How did we get here and what are the issues?  

It’s been a long journey, but the short story is that we have reached an impasse at the bargaining table with our employer, McMaster University. They have refused to make any movement on key issues, such as tuition reimbursement, extended work guarantees, wage inequity between TAs, and additional hours on the current minimum hour contracts.

The major issues that we are fighting for are:

  • A wage increase commensurate with once in a generation inflation.
  • Protections against future tuition increases in the form of a reimbursement, like they have at U of Ottawa and Carleton.
  • Close the wage gap between graduate and Undergraduate TA’s.
  • Extended work guarantees for graduate students, like they have at U of Toronto, York, and Carleton. (A 5th year of guaranteed TA work).

You can find all of our bargaining bulletins with more detailed information on the issues at

What is a Strike?

A Union has the legal right to strike during the negotiation process if it follows the appropriate timelines set out by the Ontario Labour Relations Act. A strike typically involves a full withdrawal of labour accompanied by job action – this generally means that members will operate picket lines on campus during business hours of the university for the duration of the strike.

What is a lockout?  

The Employer has the legal right to “lockout” its workers during the negotiation process if they follow the appropriate timelines set out by the Ontario Labour Relations Act.  A lockout occurs when an employer literally locks its workers out of the workplace during contract negotiations to get what it wants.  Workers typically set up picket lines during a lockout to draw attention to the situation in negotiations.

Are Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants (in lieu of TAs) at McMaster (CUPE 3906 Unit 1 members) going on strike or will they be locked out this November (2022)?

CUPE 3906’s Unit 1 bargaining team requested that our Conciliation Officer file a “no board report” in late October, 2022. This will trigger a legal strike/lockout position on November 21st, 2022 if a fair and reasonable agreement has not been reached by then.

We are scheduled to meet with the employer’s bargaining team again on November 18th, 2022, to continue negotiations. In the event of a strike or lockout, negotiations will continue throughout as long as both parties are willing to continue negotiating.

Are both Undergraduate and Graduate TAs going on strike?

Undergraduate and Graduate TAs are covered by the same Collective Agreement.  They are in the same Unit, although undergraduate TAs are paid significantly less for performing the same work. This is a major issue at the bargaining table. Because graduate and undergraduate TAs are in the same bargaining unit, it means that all TAs go on strike together (or are locked out together), regardless of their student status.  There are issues that are still on the table that impact both Undergraduate and Graduate TAs, and all TAs will be impacted by the new Collective Agreement.

Postdocs are in negotiations.  Are Postdocs going on strike?

While postdocs are in negotiations with McMaster, they are not going on strike at this time.  The Unit 3 Bargaining Team has not yet called for a strike vote for Postdocs at this point.  Please check your McMaster inboxes for updates about the ongoing Unit 3 negotiations.

What are my rights as a Unit 2 and/or Unit 3 Member if Unit 1 is on strike or is locked out?

You have the right to refuse to perform the work of any worker who is on strike at McMaster University.  This right is clearly outlined in our Collective Agreements (Article 9.02 in both the Units 2 and 3 Collective Agreements).  Your supervisor should be aware that they cannot ask you to do the work of workers who are legally on strike or locked out at McMaster.

Furthermore, we ask you not to perform Unit 1 work (ie/ TA work) if we are on strike or locked out.  As above, performing the work of other workers who are on strike or locked out only makes the strike or lockout last longer.

We welcome your support on the picket lines during your non-working hours.

If you are being asked to do the work of striking Unit 1 members, or have any questions, please contact (Sessional Faculty) or (Postdoctoral Fellows).

If you are being asked by your TAs or RAs (in lieu) if they can continue working in the event of a strike or lockout, please direct them to the Chair of your Department or Area.  That is a management issue that is beyond the scope of your duties.  Also, you should not counsel your TAs and/or RAs (in lieu) not to participate in a strike, to work as a replacement worker, and so on.  You can get into serious trouble if you interfere with the rights of Unit 1 members to participate in a legal strike.  Please feel free to direct your TAs and RAs (in lieu) to CUPE 3906 if they have questions about a strike or lockout.

What are the rights of Undergraduate Students in this situation?

The rights of Undergraduate Students are outlined in the McMaster Policy addressing the “Rights Responsibilities of Undergraduates During Work Stoppages”:

Undergraduate Classes may continue in the event of a strike or lockout.  The delivery method of some classes may change if tenured faculty choose not to cross a picket line.

Tutorials and labs may be cancelled.

Some tutorials and labs may be taught by “replacement workers” or TAs who choose to cross their own picket line.  We are trying to inform such people that they have no Collective Agreement rights or protections if they continue to work, and the Union cannot assist them if they have workplace problems.  Also, such people doing such work only make a strike last longer and jeopardize the outcome for their colleagues.

Please feel free to refer you undergraduate students to for more information.

How long could a strike last?

For as long as it takes to obtain a fair and equitable Collective Agreement. Negotiations would continue during a strike. Nobody wants a prolonged strike, and, generally speaking, the more people who participate and show support, the shorter the strike.

Why is the Union disrupting students and other people on campus to get what it wants?  

A strike (including the withdrawal of labour) is the way a group of workers can effectively protest attacks on their collective rights by an Employer.  In this situation, a strike beginning on November 21st, 2022, is the most effective legal way that TAs and RAs in lieu can do this.

How can I help my TAs?

It means a lot to your TAs to know when they have the support of their colleagues.  Going on strike is a last resort, and many TAs are hesitant to defend their rights if it means negatively impacting their colleagues and students in anyway.  The fact of the matter is that undergraduate students actually have significant rights and power during labour relations disruptions—more so than the workers involved in the labour relations process.

Visit  or contact or to find out how you can show your support for Unit 1 members.

Where can I find out more about the negotiation process or the strike?

Please check out our website, or with any questions you may have.  You can also reach out to our your Chief Steward ( for Sessional Faculty or for Postdoctoral Felllows) to find out how you can help!

Background and outstanding bargaining issues:

CUPE 3906, the Legal bargaining agent for Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants (in lieu) (called “Unit 1”) have been negotiating with the McMaster University Administration’s Bargaining Team since August 2022.  The parties are re-negotiating a Collective Agreement that protected the workplace rights of Unit 1 members that expired on August 31, 2022.

In the past two months of negotiations, the Union and the Employer had the assistance of a government-appointed Conciliation Officer to help the parties arrive at a deal.  In late October, the Union’s Bargaining Team declared that the Parties reached an impasse, and requested the Conciliation Officer to issue a legal document called a “No Board Report,” which will trigger a strike on November 21st, 2022 if a new collective agreement has not been reached.

You can find all of our bargaining bulletins with more detailed information on the issues at