STRIKE VOTE QUESTIONS:
How many strike votes are there? What is the difference between a “strike vote” and a “strike mandate vote”?
Under the Ontario Labour Relations Act, there is only one “strike vote” (which is sometimes called a “strike mandate vote”). The strike vote/strike mandate vote asks you to give your elected bargaining team permission to call a strike in the event that the Parties reach an impasse at the bargaining table. There is no “second” vote or additional vote required (or recognized by law) to call a strike.
How did we get here and why is the bargaining team calling for a strike vote?
- The CUPE 3906 Unit 2 (Sessional Faculty, Hourly Rated Music Faculty, and MELD Faculty) Collective Agreement (CA) expired on August 31, 2021.
- Your elected Bargaining Team gave notice to bargain in May, 2021, and met with our Employer, McMaster University, to renegotiate the CA 14 times in the past 10 months.
- Negotiations progressed slowly, and on April 27, 2022, the Employer declared that the Parties reached an impasse and filed for conciliation.
- “Conciliation” occurs when one or both Parties believe that they have reached an impasse and require assistance reaching an agreement from a government-appointed Conciliation Officer.
- A Conciliation Officer cannot force the Parties to come to an agreement or make decisions about what proposals will form the CA.
- The Parties are required to participate in Conciliation prior to either party triggering a strike or lockout.
- It is unwise for the Union to enter Conciliation without a successful, strong strike vote. The only way to make any movement on our key priorities at this point is with a demonstration of Unit 2 members’ support through a successful strike vote.
- You can find a summary about what’s left on the table here [insert link]
Will the Union continue to negotiate with the Employer?
Yes, of course. In this situation, the Employer declared an impasse. We are still committed to trying to reach a deal at the table with the assistance of a Conciliation Officer.
Will there be a strike or a lockout?
While it is impossible to say at this point whether or not there will be a strike or a lockout with any certainty, both Parties will return to the table to continue negotiations in conciliation. By law, the Parties must enter into conciliation prior to the Employer declaring a lockout or the Union declaring a strike.
What rules govern a strike vote?
Strike votes must happen in accordance with Section 79 of the Ontario Labour Relations Act (https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/95l01/v23) and Section 12 (page 32) of the Local’s bylaws (https://cupe3906.org/about-us/by-laws/)
Why should we vote yes in the strike vote?
It is important to vote yes during a strike vote for a number of reasons. More people voting yes means that we’ll end up with a strong vote. In this situation, a strong vote means that we have 80 – 90 percent of the membership voting “yes”. Based on past experiences, what we’ve seen time and time again is that when we have a strong strike vote, we end up with a strong collective agreement. This is because a strong strike vote sends a clear message to the Employer that the Union’s membership is not willing to simply have a bad deal imposed on them. A positive strike vote does not mean we will go on strike, but it does authorize the bargaining team to call a strike if one becomes necessary in order to secure a fair deal. It also instructs the union to begin necessary preparations for a strike or lockout situation.
How many strike votes are there? What is the difference between a “strike vote” and a “strike mandate vote”?
Under the Ontario Labour Relations Act, there is only one “strike vote” (which is commonly called a “strike mandate vote”). The strike vote/strike mandate vote asks you to give your elected bargaining team permission to call a strike in the event that the Parties reach an impasse at the bargaining table. There is no “second” vote or additional vote required (or recognized by law) to call a strike.
Who can vote in a Unit 2 (Sessional Faculty and HRSMF) strike vote?
Only members of CUPE 3906 Unit 2 (Sessional Faculty and Hourly Rated Sessional Music Faculty) may vote in a Unit 2 strike vote. The following members of Unit 2 may vote in a strike vote:
- Members who are working or have worked as Sessional Faculty and/or Hourly Rated Sessional Music Faculty in the Spring/Summer 2022 terms, the Winter 2022 term, and/or the Fall 2021 term;
- Members who hold a contract (appointment letter) to work as Sessional Faculty and/or Hourly Rated Sessional Music Faculty in the 2022-2023 academic year (i.e., “contract in hand”)
I am an international member (e.g., non-Canadian citizen). Can I vote in the strike vote?
Yes! As long as you are a Unit 2 member [see: “Who can vote in a strike vote” above] you can vote in the strike vote. Strike votes are required by law to be undertaken via secret ballot. It is illegal for you to face reprisal for participating in a legal strike vote or legal strike in Canada, and participating in strike votes and/or strikes at your place of work cannot negatively impact your student visa, citizenship application, etc.
How do I vote in the strike vote?
How likely is a strike?
It is impossible to say in advance if negotiations will break down to the extent that a strike is required. No one wants to go on strike; it’s really a last resort in the legal bargaining process.
Oddly enough, a strong strike vote with a high turn-out is the best way to avoid a strike, because it gives the bargaining team the leverage they need to make the Employer return to the table and address the membership’s proposals and priorities.
Are we going on strike during a pandemic? Or, what will a strike look like during a pandemic?
There have been many successful strikes won during the pandemic, including in the University sector. Though we are bound by CUPE National’s Strike and Defence Fund regulations, a lot of what a strike by Sessional Faculty at McMaster during a pandemic would look like would be up to the Local’s Strike Committee, on which any interested member of the union can serve.
Can I cross a picket line for classes? Are classes still going on?
Undergraduate and Graduate Classes usually continue in the event of a strike or lockout. Some grad classes may be held off-campus if tenured faculty choose not to cross a picket line. The union understands that some Unit 2 members have a “dual” role as Employees and students at McMaster. In the event of a strike or lock-out, we ask you to cease all assigned Sessional Faculty duties and come join your colleagues on the picket line. You may continue to go to academic classes or perform your personal academic research if we are on strike or involved in a lockout.
What do I do if my students ask me questions about a strike?
When you are in the lab or the classroom, you have a responsibility to fulfill your duties as a Sessional Faculty Member. That being said, questions may come up in conversation about the likelihood of a strike or lockout at McMaster. Feel free to inform students that they have rights and protections in the event of a strike or lockout. These rights and protections are outlined in
McMaster University’s Policy on the “Rights and Responsibilities of Undergraduate Students During Work Stoppages that Substantially Disrupt Academic Activities.” (Please see the link to this policy [insert link].) You can also feel free to direct students to our website, www.bettermac.ca, for answers to commonly asked questions about the negotiations.
How much is strike pay and when does it start?
From Day 1 of a Strike, CUPE National takes on the burden of paying out strike pay and making sure that members’ benefits are maintained in the event of a strike or lockout.
Strike pay is calculated as $300 per week for 20 hours of strike duties performed per week.
It is CUPE National’s policy that members must perform 20 hours of strike duties to receive strike pay. Strike duties generally include picket line duties (however there are alternate duties for those who cannot walk a picket line due to accessibility concerns). Strike pay is non-taxable. Only members who are currently working as Sessional Faculty eligible for strike pay, but everyone is welcome to show support at the picket line.
I’m an international student member. Is it legal for me to participate in a strike?
It’s entirely legal for international student members to participate in a strike, perform strike duties, and/or show support for the Union during contract negotiations. Receiving strike pay and performing strike duties are allowable under your permit to attend McMaster as a student and worker. A strike or lockout doesn’t change the fact that McMaster University is your Employer and/or the place where you are going to school.
Can I work while I’m on strike or locked out?
We ask Sessional Faculty to stop performing any and all duties that fall under your Sessional Faculty contracts in the event of a strike. Working as a Sessional Faculty while your peers are out on strike (known as “scabbing”) weakens the union’s position and actually prolongs the strike. It jeopardizes every right and protection that your peers (and Sessional Faculty members before you) have been struggling to attain for your benefit. If you do not want to walk the picket line and receive strike pay, please just stay home! Or, better yet, find out what your elected peers are fighting for and join your colleagues on the picket line. At the end of the day, you will be enjoying the rights and benefits that your peers are fighting to protect, and they can only be successful with everyone’s support and participation!
*Please note that if you hold other, non-CUPE 3906 Unit 2 job positions on campus (e.g. Teaching Assistant, Research Assistant, Postdoctoral Fellow member, UNIFOR member, hospitality staff person, etc.), you are probably contractually obligated to continue to work under the terms of your non-CUPE 3906 Unit 2 employment. That being said, you likely have provisions in your contract under which the Employer cannot ask you to perform the work of Sessional Faculty if they are on strike or locked out. If you are a Unit 1 member (TA or RA in lieu of TA) or a Unit 3 member (Postdoctoral Fellow) and have a question about your rights and responsibilities in the event of a Unit 1 strike or lockout, please contact the union at email@example.com.
Can my supervisor compel me to work as a Sessional Faculty during a strike?
No. It is not legal for your supervisor, department chair, or a member of the University Administration to compel you to perform your regular Sessional Faculty duties (or those of other Sessional Faculty) during a legal strike or lockout. Your supervisor should know this, because:
- a) they are protected from “scabbing” (or performing “replacement worker” work) in the event of a strike or lockout under McMaster’s Policies and Guidelines, and likely also under the terms of their own Collective Agreement(s) or employment contract(s);
- b) the Employer usually briefs other Employees on campus (including Faculty in supervisory roles) on what is legal and what is not legal in the event of a legal strike or lockout.
If you are asked by your supervisor or your Department Chair to continue your work as a Sessional Instructor or to work as a “replacement worker” in the event of a legal strike or lockout, please let the Union know and we can help you.
Do I keep my benefits during a strike?
Thankfully, CUPE 3906 and CUPE National are currently able to maintain members’ benefits in the event of a strike or lock-out. If there are any changes to the administration of the benefits (e.g., where to drop off claims, etc.), we would give the membership plenty of notice of such changes.
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. If
McMaster University “locks out” its Sessional Faculty, all of the strike pay and benefits provisions will be in effect, and we will set up picket lines just as if we were on strike.
To whom do I refer questions about the negotiation process or the strike vote?
Please check out www.bettermac.ca or www.cupe3906.org with any questions you may have. If you don’t find an answer on the website, please contact our Mobilizer, Walter, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or our Staff Representatives at email@example.com.