Bargaining Update – August 31st, 2020


Dear Unit 2 Members,

After two weeks of negotiations with our Employer, the McMaster University Administration, we are disappointed to inform you that the parties have reached an impasse and we are seeking both the assistance of a government-appointed Conciliation Officer and a strike vote from our Unit 2 members.

The Union and the Employer made some progress at the table over the past few sessions.  For instance, we removed conditions that would limit members to teach two courses per term, and made some gains to supplemental fees for large classes.

 Unfortunately, that progress was cut short by a few fundamental disagreements:

-improvements to job security and transparency in hiring.  Job security was a top priority for members according to our survey.  We continue to propose improvements to the existing first consideration appointment system and to transparent and fair hiring processes, but the Employer is not agreeable to any substantive changes.

-money.  The Employer states that it is limited to a 1% increase to wages and benefits due to the regressive legislation put forward by the Ford Conservatives last fall (Bill 124).  Paid training is not contemplated by the legislation, however, and we believe that members should receive extra compensation for health and safety training and/or professional training in addition to normal course preparation and delivery.  This is an opportunity for the Employer to offer gains outside of the restrictions of the legislation, and we think our members are worth it.

-proration of 3-unit courses.  The Employer has included a proposal that would allow members in one of our departments (MELD) to be paid 1/3rd of the value of a 3-unit course by claiming to have altered the workload of the course to 1/3rd of the workload of a “regular” 3-unit course.  This is an attack on our members, and we are concerned that, if we agree to this language, the Employer would be permitted to reduce compensation in any of our 3- or 6-unit courses.  The Employer also wants the Union to withdraw outstanding grievances on proration and job security as a condition of the agreement.

-technological support.  Especially given the move to online teaching due to the COVID-19 pandemic, members require additional technological support for the tools and resources they need.  The Employer is having difficulty finding ways of facilitating this (although the Union has proposed several options).

-3-year contract. Given the uncertainties created by the pandemic and current legislation (Bill 124), we had hoped the employer would agree to a two-year agreement. This would have allowed both sides to go back to the negotiating table at a time when things hopefully have stabilized and some uncertainties resolved. However, the Employer is insisting on a three-year deal.

-Preventing job loss.  The Union requested that the Employer commit to not reducing the number of jobs as a result of any move to online teaching because of the pandemic (e.g., increase the student to instructor ratio to create online, “mega” classes).  The Employer did not agree to commit to this, and has already done this in at least one department.

-Guidelines on reasonable hours of work.  The Union proposed language to make sure that members were not required to provide instruction or student consultation between the hours of 10 P.M. and 8:30 A.M..  The Employer did not agree to this language.

More information about an impending strike vote and dates for conciliation will be forthcoming.

Please continue to check your email for information about your rights and your opportunities to be heard at meetings and consultations.

We remain open to meet with the Employer to arrive at a negotiated agreement.  This does not change in spite of our request for assistance from the membership and a Conciliation Officer.  We did not make this decision lightly, and we regret having to take this course of action given the pandemic situation.


Your Unit 2 Bargaining Committee

Unit 3 (Postdocs) reaches tentative agreement

Brad WalchukUncategorized

We are pleased to announce that your Unit 3 (Postdoctoral Fellows) Bargaining Team has reached a Tentative Agreement with McMaster University for the Unit 3 Collective Agreement, the contract that governs your rights as CUPE 3906 Unit 3 members at McMaster.

Details of the Tentative Agreement will be presented to Unit 3 members at an upcoming Special General Membership Meeting (date, time, and location to be announced).

In the meantime, details of the Tentative Agreement will remain confidential out of courtesy to members and to the Employer.

Thank you for your support and interest in this process.  We will provide more details about the ratification process as soon as possible.

In solidarity,

Nathan Todd
President, CUPE 3906

Unit 1 members ratify collective agreement

Brad WalchukUncategorized

Unit 1 members voted 89% in favour of ratifying the tentative agreement. The agreement includes the addition of 5 paid hours of pedagogical and anti-oppression for all members, which was a key priority throughout the bargaining process. The agreement also secures the new inclusions of paid pregnancy leave, paid family medical leave, a fund dedicated to supporting members seeking gender affirmation, stronger supports for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and (pending recommendation from the  Indigenous Education Council) hiring preferences for members of Indigenous communities in the department of Indigenous Studies. An overview of the agreement can be found by clicking here.
The bargaining team would like to emphasize that the gains made at the table (and the removal of all concessions) was made possible by the unprecedented support from Unit 1 members and the broader McMaster, Hamilton, and Labour communities. CUPE 3906 would like to extend its sincere gratitude for all who showed their support, and looks forward to the next round of bargaining for Unit 1, which we expect will prove even more successful.
The final step in the process is for McMaster’s Board of Governors to ratify the agreement at their next meeting on December 12th, at which point the agreement will be fully ratified.

Tentative Deal Reached for Unit 1


-November 19th, 2019-

After many long days and nights at the negotiations table, your bargaining team and McMaster University have finally reached a tentative agreement.
Per the CUPE 3906 Bylaws, we will be presenting this tentative agreement for your consideration at a Special General Membership Meeting on Monday, November 25th, with voting to begin thereafter and continue throughout the following day. The exact timing and location of the meeting will be determined and announced as soon as possible.
While we cannot divulge any specifics of this tentative agreement until the SGMM, it should be understood that the Unit 1 bargaining team will be recommending that the Membership vote in favour of its ratification.
All of this is to say that pending the Membership’s ratification of the tentative agreement, there will be NO strike. 
Thanks to all of you who supported us throughout this process. We hope to see you Monday!
In solidarity,
The Unit 1 Bargaining Team

RE: Incorrect or misleading claims made by McMaster University


Response to McMaster’s No Board Report claims

November 8, 2019

As many members of the McMaster community know, CUPE Local 3906 (Unit 1) and the
University jointly requested a ‘no-board’ report following a day of conciliation that failed to break an
impasse and provide the meaningful gains that Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants (in lieu)
deserve. More information about this can be found at

One of the key priorities identified by members in our bargaining survey was access to paid TA
training. The importance of said training was reinforced when Unit 1 members returned a historic and
record-breaking strike vote of 87% after McMaster University failed to agree to the Union’s proposals
on this item. Let us be clear: in highlighting the lack of paid TA training, the Union is referring to
university-wide training that would help TAs to become more effective at their jobs. Specifically, the
Union proposed five paid hours for pedagogical training and an additional three paid hours for anti-oppression training.

The employer addressed this issue – which we had already tabled as a priority– on June 24th,
in their eighth set of proposals to the Union. Specifically, they proposed using the following language
in a letter of understanding: “The parties agree to establish a joint committee for the purposes of
exploring the feasibility of establishing an Institution-wide or Faculty specific training program(s) for
new employees.” This would certainly suggest that there is not university-wide (or even faculty specific)
training for new employees.

On November 5th, when the employer provided the union with a “comprehensive proposal,”
they made no mention of university-wide paid TA training on pedagogy or anti-oppression.
For these reasons, you can imagine the Union’s surprise when we read the employer’s
statement on requesting a ‘no-board’ report. In it, they assert that “McMaster also funds benefits
programs and paid training for Teaching Assistants.” To be clear, the University is now claiming that
they fund paid training for Teaching Assistants. Our questions is this: “Oh, really?”

We are left wondering which paid training they provide to TAs – be it pedagogical, anti-oppression,
or both. If we are to take the University’s statement at face value, it is unclear why they
would have refused our above mentioned proposals, let alone why they themselves proposed
“establish[ing] a joint committee for the purposes of exploring the feasibility of establishing an
Institution-wide or Faculty specific training program(s) for new employees.” So we ask again, to which
paid TA training are they referring?

Perhaps they are referring to health and safety training. The Occupational Health and Safety
Act mandates this type of training, so citing it when we have clearly been bargaining over anti-oppression and pedagogical training is disingenuous to say the least. Perhaps they are referring to
training mandated by the Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which the employer is required to
offer to employees. We know that the Faculty of Engineering launched a pilot project to provide training to its graduate TAs. If this is what they were referring to, it is unclear why they would not want
to include such an important provision in their proposals, especially in response to our proposals for
paid university-wide TA training.

There is existing language in the Collective Agreement mandating that “the Employer will
provide an orientation… to all newly hired Unit 1 employees in order to provide them with information
about the general operation of the University and resources available to employees that may be of
assistance in the performance of their duties. Employee orientation may include information about
such things as instructional courses and professional development resources that are available to
employees.” This language might tell TAs and RAs in lieu about what is available, but it does not
provide pedagogical or anti-oppression training. Neither party is looking to amend this language, so
surely this is not something worth highlighting. At the department level, some departments carve out
minimal paid training for TAs, but this simply comes out of their allocation of hours, thus leaving less
time for marking and student contact. To us it seems that providing additional paid hours for training
is the least the employer could do, considering that most of our members take home less than $5,ooo
in wages per year once we account for the cost of full-time tuition – the payment of which is a
condition of their employment.

We would urge all TAs to call or e-mail their Department Chairs, the University’s Vice-Provost
and Dean of Graduate Studies (who also happens to be Chair of their bargaining team), as well as the
Associate Vice-President and Dean of Students to inquire about the paid training opportunities we are
supposedly afforded. Some helpful contact information can be found below. We would love to hear the
responses to these inquiries!

• Doug Welch, Vice-Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies: 1-905-525-9140 x 24205 or
• Sean Van Koughnett, Associate Vice-President and Dean of Students: 1-905-525-9140 x 27455

We have always been clear about the fact that TAs and RAs in lieu both demand and deserve
paid pedagogical and anti-oppression training. We also know that our students deserve TAs who have
been trained in ways commensurate with the University’s emphasis on excellence in teaching.
McMaster’s recent statement is either embarrassingly uninformed or deliberately misleading, and we
hold that the only correct course of action would be for them to immediately offer a retraction and


Nathan Todd

President of CUPE 3906

Unit 1 Conciliation Update: No Board Report filed – Strike / Lockout Position to be triggered prior to the end of November

Brad WalchukUncategorized

Following the outstanding support we have seen from members, Unit 1’s bargaining team came to the table today ready to move negotiations forward. We came to the table with a firm commitment to removing all concessions and to securing significant and meaningful gains on priorities you have continually endorsed throughout this process.

We spent over 12 hours communicating with our conciliator and the employer and provided significant movement on our proposals in an effort to keep negotiations moving. Sadly, around 9pm, after we had dedicated several hours to a comprehensive and meaningful pass, we were informed that over half of the employer’s bargaining team – including their Chair – had already left. Beyond causing us significant frustration, we take this as a sign of minimal serious engagement in the process on their part.

Despite this development (or lack thereof), we tabled the proposal we had completed thus far, including a firm re-commitment to our consistent stance on removing all concessions from our contract and the need for significant movement on your stated bargaining priorities as they were ratified prior to the commencement of negotiations.

The few members of their bargaining team who remained then signalled to the conciliator that they were not willing to meaningfully consider our priorities. Both parties then jointly filed for a No Board Report, thus triggering movement into a legal strike/lockout position prior to the end of November.

Filing a No Board Report puts pressure on both the union and the employer to reach an agreement prior to this deadline, provided that both parties are willing to negotiate.

We have secured a mediation date on November 19th and are working to secure more. We hope that by then, McMaster will realize that offering de facto pay cuts and concessions on job security to already precarious employees is not the way to a Brighter World, nor to a #BetterMac. It would also be prudent of the employer to recognize that given the rising cost of living for our members, protections against tuition increases would offer much needed security in an increasingly unpredictable economy. Further, we hope the employer will recognize that paid pedagogical training is not only a simple and reasonable request for any employee group, but that it is specifically reasonable for Teaching Assistants within a world-renowned university.

We remain eager to reach a fair agreement that reflects your priorities ahead of this deadline, and hopeful that the employer’s entire bargaining team will come to the table on the 19th ready to do the same.

In the meantime, we will be proceeding with all necessary preparations to ensure that we can be in the best possible position to defend our members’ interests in the event of a strike being called.

One of the best ways to avert a strike is by making the Employer feel the pressure of an engaged membership. We’re already off to an amazing start with an 87% strike vote — a historic mandate for Unit 1. Today we are asking that you help us build on this momentum by informing the University Secretariat and Board of Governors of your support for the CUPE 3906 Unit 1 bargaining team and the priorities ratified by our members. Consider taking 5 minutes out of your day to let the “right” people know it will be in the University’s best interests to negotiate a fair deal ASAP:

You can also use social media to share our most recent bargaining infographic (attached to this email) and/or stories about how your TAs have helped you. Keep us in the know by using #BetterMac or by tagging us @CUPE3906. TAs make the university tick, and ideally McMaster will come to realize this fact without us having to show them through a work stoppage!

We will continue to inform you of our progress at the bargaining table as much as possible. For a complete list of bargaining updates, please visit

In solidarity

Unit 1 Bargaining Team

Pets for CUPE 3906

Brad WalchukUncategorized

It’s no secret that academics love their pets! Less known, though, is the fact that our pets have been some of our strongest and bravest supporters in the current round of bargaining with McMaster. Be they dogs, cats, or guinea pigs – they’re all fed up with how the University has handled its negotiations with Units 1 and 3 and they’re not afraid to say it!

If you have a pet who loves TAs and postdocs, we’d love for you to participate in this campaign! There are several laminated signs in the union office (KTH B111) for folks to borrow. Some are specific to dogs and cats and some speak to key bargaining priorities such as TA training, 5th year TA guarantees, better wages, and closing the pay gap between undergraduate and graduate TAs. We will also be making printable PDF versions of these signs available in a separate post.

You can post your own photos to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and tag us @CUPE3906, OR send them our way via Messenger or email using We hope that many of you will join us as we continue to increase pressure on the University and look forward to building even greater solidarity in the weeks to come!

#PetsForCUPE3906 #GoodDogsAgainstBadWages












Unit 3- Bargaining Update #6

Brad WalchukUncategorized

CUPE 3906 Bargaining Bulletin #6
Unit 3: Postdoctoral Fellows

OCTOBER 23rd, 2019

HAMILTON, ON — On Monday, October 21st – and for the first time since mid-August – your Unit 3 bargaining team met with the Employer.

We have finally begun to see some positive movement on benefits (such as the health care spending account, family dental rebate, and professional development), and we believe this is the result of an engaged and mobilized membership. That said, Bill 124 remains a stumbling block as the Employer seeks to keep compensation to a minimum. We remain concerned about the employer’s proposals on vacation, which are a rollback from the current entitlement. The bargaining team hopes to secure additional dates with the Employer’s team in next month.

Our President wrote an open letter to the McMaster Board of Governors urging Board members to bargain according to what the Employer thinks Postdocs deserve, and not according to the Conservative Government’s draft legislation. A copy of the letter can be viewed at:

Unit 3 is CUPE 3906’s smallest unit with just over 170 members, and consists of postdoctoral fellows working at McMaster University. The current collective agreement expires on August 31.

Open Letter to the McMaster Board of Governors


While the McMaster Board of Governors put a lot of work into making themselves inaccessible to the McMaster community, we have managed to send the following letter to a number of them ahead of their meeting this Thursday, October 24th.

Stay tuned for more details on how you can help us remind the Board of Governors that they serve us, not the Ford Government.