CUPE 3906 Unit 1 Bargaining Blog
~ your issues, your process, your contract ~


Dear fellow unit 1 members,

This Sunday evening at 4pm we will convene to discuss and vote on the employer’s current offer. We have called this vote in order to send a strong message to McMaster that they must address the key issues in bargaining, issues that we, as a union, have voted time and again to insist are pivotal. Until we vote down this offer, we will see no movement on class-sizes and overwork, work for upper-year students, maintenance of our benefits, and protection from tuition increases.

We began this bargaining process by tabling a modest but comprehensive set of proposals that included no new increase in graduate TA wages. We took into consideration the general economic situation. You gave us your trust and ideas. Time and again we revised and reformed our proposals. You have been with us through the entire bargaining process. We had hoped that our local’s rejection of a ratification vote on November 1st would be enough to convince the McMaster administration they need to take our proposals seriously. We had hoped that three days of strong picket lines would be enough. Now it is clear only a decisive and formal rejection of this insulting offer will succeed in winning the contract we deserve.

There are our main issues:

1. We are seeking protection from overwork due to ballooning tutorial and lab sizes. Large tutorial and labs undermine the quality of education and our personal relationship with our students.
2. We are seeking job security for upper-year graduate students so that they have access to TA or RA work as they finish their degrees.
3. We are seeking to protect benefits. Without an increase in funding that is proportional to member usage, benefits will be cut.
4. We need some protection of our take-home income from yearly tuition increases.

For more information on all of these issues, please check out the information “annex” to this document, to be posted this evening.

If we fail to reject this offer, we will not simply be settling for the “status quo.” The university’s offer means substantial cuts in take-home pay and total compensation for almost all members of Unit 1. We cannot be intimidated by the administration’s threats to that sabotage the hard-fought agreement reached on many items if we reject this contract. This is a typical, if mean-spirited, bargaining tactic. When we reject their contract and send a clear message we cannot be bullied, we have every reason to expect that they will willing to move enough our our key issues to settle this deal and get everyone back to work.

We have kept this message short in order to be clear and concise. Please check our blog regularly for updates.

Please contact the strike office with any questions: 905-528-CUPE

Voting will commence following our meeting at the Hamilton Convention Centre on Sunday night. All members should inform themselves and participate in the discussion.

We look forward to an informed and spirited discussion on Sunday night. Se you there!


NEWS RELEASE – On a student Day of Action, Queen’s Park must take action – November 5 2009

On a student ‘Day of Action,’ Queen’s Park must take action on unreasonable tuition hikes

TORONTO, Ont. – As students across Ontario take part in a ‘Day of Action’ for a poverty-free Ontario, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario Sid Ryan issued a call to Premier Dalton McGuinty to implement the simplest anti-student poverty measure possible—putting a stop to unreasonable tuition hikes.

“We have members in Hamilton who are on strike right now at McMaster University, and one of the key sticking points has been the university’s insistence on raising tuition and student fees far above the rate of inflation,” said Ryan.

Members of CUPE 3906, representing more than 3,000 teaching assistants (TAs) and research assistants (RAs) at McMaster, went on strike earlier in the week. Among the outstanding issues on the table is the University Board of Governors’ recent approval of tuition increases ranging from $250 for undergraduate teaching assistants to $753 for international graduate student teaching assistants.

“This is not the direction Ontario’s universities should be taking. If anything, our universities should be reducing tuition fees and the province should be taking steps to eliminate them outright,” said Ryan.

Ryan, who attended the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario Day of Action events in Toronto, also called on students and union members to show their support for striking McMaster teaching and research assistants by joining them this afternoon on the picket line. Striking TAs and RAs will be joined by their supporters this afternoon at McMaster University’s Stirling entrance at 4:30 p.m.


For more information contact:

Sid Ryan, CUPE Ontario President: 416-209-0066

Kevin Wilson, CUPE Communications: 416-821-6641


Photos from Day 1 of the Strike:

Photos from Day 2 of the Strike:

More photos and videos are coming soon…


Dear Graduate Research Assistants,

Earlier this week, a statement was issued that read as follows:  “Please note that any student in ECE that is an RA is not in the barganing unit and must report to work.”

Please be advised that anyone who holds a Research Assistantship IN LIEU OF (instead of) a TAship IS PART OF CUPE and IS ON STRIKE.

You can identify whether or not you are on a member of the bargaining unit that is on strike by looking at your pay stub.  If you see CUPE, you are part of the bargaining unit.

If you are unclear about whether you are part of CUPE, please contact


Dear Members,

Some members have noted that they are unable to attend the upcoming Special Membership Meeting this Sunday at 4pm, and the ratification vote folowing the meeting and on Monday between 10 and 4pm.  Unfortunately, the By-Laws do allow proxy or electronic voting, although they can sometimes allow mail-in balloting. Sorry about this, but this type of voting is not allowed for strike or ratification votes. We regret that the timing of the vote may not be ideal for everyone, as we want as many members as possible to be able to vote, but the University administration has forced the timing of this vote.   Please see the By-Laws, and the relevant Article, below:

4.1 – Mail-In Balloting

(a) Any member in good standing who is a Research Assistant in lieu of a Teaching Assistant and working off-campus, as approved by the School of Graduate Studies, shall have the ability to mail-in votes, in accordance with 4.1 (b).

(b) A member working off-campus shall be eligible for mail-in ballot when:

i) A notice of motion has been given.
ii) And, that member makes herself/himself known to the Executive of the Local within a reasonable time prior to the vote.
iii) And, provides the Executive of the Local with documentation demonstrating her/his off-campus work status.

(c) Upon official notification of off-campus status and the desire and eligibility to cast a mail-in ballot, the Vice-President shall mail the notice of motion and a ballot indication “In favour”, “Against”, “Abstention” with a stamped envelope to the member. The Vice-President shall tabulate all such votes, in the presence of a witness, and report these results to the President at the General Membership Meeting at which a vote is to happen due to a notice of motion.

(d) Notwithstanding, it is understood that this mail-in balloting does not apply to balloting conducted for the purposes of the following:

i) Ratification of tentative agreements with the Employer.
ii) An “offer last received” vote.
iii) Strike Votes.
iv) CUPE National Referendums.
v) Any other votes where mail-in balloting is prohibited By-Law.



After three days on strike, Teaching and Research Assistants at McMaster are preparing to take the University’s last offer to a ratification vote, but not to end the strike.  Members will take a formal, secret ballot on the offer that has not changed significantly since August 6th.  The Union’s bargaining team is unanimously recommending that members reject the proposed contract.

“We’ve moved several times on our proposals, but McMaster still won’t meet us half way,” say Canadian Union of Public Employees, local 3906 bargaining team member and teaching assistant Rebecca Strung, “Until last night, they were insisting that we recommend their offer to our members, even though our members already told us it is unacceptable time and again.  Now they’ve threatened to take everything off the table unless we concede to their demands. These aren’t bargaining tactics, these are the tactics of a school-yard bully.”

She adds that the only way to stand up to a bully is to band together and that’s exactly the point of taking a ratification vote.  The vote will begin on Sunday night following a membership meeting at the Hamilton Convention Centre and continuing through Monday from 10am-5pm at the union’s strike office.  Picket lines will remain up through that time.

“We came to the conclusion that McMaster would keep wasting our time, and the time of student, faculty and the rest of the McMaster community, unless we took this vote and demonstrated our resolve,” explained Derek Sahota, another member of the bargaining team and a research assistant, “while the picket lines are a clear enough symbol of our members will for us and for the rest of the campus community, it’s not enough for the university administration.  When we reject this offer, the employer will have no choice but to start bargaining with the honesty and maturity we expect of them.”

While the union has, from the beginning, insisted it doesn’t want any increase in wages, there are four major outstanding issues.  TAs want to protect their income from tuition increases, to maintain their benefits fund from impending cuts because of rising enrollment, to win guarantees that the most qualified and experienced TAs can have access to teaching work throughout their degrees, and to cap tutorial sizes so they can maintain their personal relationship with their students and the quality of education.

“The total cost of what we are asking for is less than 0.001% of the university’s operating budget,” says Strung, “the entire amount we need to just maintain our benefits for 2,700 people is less than a starting professor makes in one year.   The only conclusion we can reach is that this isn’t about money for McMaster, it’s about putting our members ‘in their place.’  It’s bullying, plain and simple.  And with this vote we are going to send the message we can’t be bullied.”

“We are the backbone of quality education at this university,” Sahota added, “we love teaching and research and we are care about our students and the quality of their education.  We provide critical one-on-one teaching and high-quality research and we work long hours and have a lot of training.  But we need the resources to do our jobs and McMaster needs to realize they can’t just take advantage of us.”

Picket lines will continue to snarl traffic at McMaster until the results of the ratification vote are counted on Monday night.  If the vote passes, TAs could head back to work mid-week.  If the vote fails, the union’s bargaining team is prepared to negotiate on Monday night to reach a deal to get their members back to work.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, local 3906 represents over 3000 members at McMaster including teaching and research assistants, part-time sessional faculty and post-doctoral research fellows.  The 2,700 members of the union’s “Unit 1” who are on strike are teaching and research assistants, the vast majority of whom are also students.

More information regarding the meeting will follow shortly.

In solidarity,

CUPE 3906


Dear Unit 2 Members,
Please find below important information for Unit 2 members (sessional faculty and sessional music faculty) regarding the current Teaching Assistant and Research Assistant strike at McMaster.  It is important that Sessional Faculty and Sessional Music Faculty are aware of their rights and obligations, as well as the ways in which we can assist our coworkers and fellow union members during the present job action. The next few days will be critical!  It is  particularly important that we join with the broader community of supportive McMaster students, faculty and union members who will be attending our Solidarity Rally on Thursday 4:30pm, at the Sterling Gate.  Transportation and childcare costs to attend this event can be reimbursed by our union  
Strikes are hectic and confusing times.  Please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Strike Office with any questions:

The CUPE Unit 2 contract and McMaster Senate Policy both contain specific sections which obligate us to respect the legal job action of our co-workers. While Sessional Faculty members must cross the picket lines of striking employees in order to continue with their normal contractual teaching duties, Article 8.03 of our collective agreement is clear that Sessional Faculty cannot be required to perform the work normally done by Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants. You may adjust your curriculum in order to ensure that you are not performing the extra work of your TAs.

Moreover, undergraduate students have the right to choose not to participate in academic activities during a work stoppage under the McMaster Senate Policy on the Rights and Responsibilities of Students During Work Stoppages which can be found. In order to clarify these rights and obligations, we suggest that you adopt the following voluntary Code of Solidarity for the duration of the current job action:
If you are a supervisor of TAs, please know that you cannot attempt to influence their choice to strike.  If you have any questions about this situation, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the union at 905-528-CUPE.



Dear Unit 1 Members,

We want to thank continued strong support on day 2 of our job action. Picketers were strong and determined despite the colder temperatures. By mid morning the strike office was literally buzzing with members eager to contribute their talents to various committees. Our strike is also receiving excellent media coverage. Stories about our struggle ran yesterday and today in major broadcast, print and television news outlets in Hamilton and around the province. Your hard work and strong support is making a major impact!

Today your bargaining team met with the university administration at 3:30pm. We were expecting a response to the position document that we gave them yesterday.

Their response was to hand us exactly the same pass that was presented to us at the end of the last round of mediation–the same pass that members refused to take to ratification at the special membership meeting on Sunday, November 1st . The employer did, however, make one small change; they made the pass conditional upon your bargaining team unanimously recommending it to the members for a ratification vote. Because members have already declined to take this package to a vote, there is no way that your bargaining team could ever offer a recommendation to precisely the same paltry package.

What has become clear is that we are not participating in bargaining; rather, we are being bullied. This is not about bargaining but about trying to break the union, to break the bargaining team, and to break your spirits. We need to keep sending the message that we will not be bullied into taking a package that does not come close to the standard in the university sector. Your bargaining team will continue to represent you to the best of our abilities. We applaud and sincerely thank all of you who are supporting us – it’s you who are making all the difference!

Members on the picket lines have seen the abusive behaviour of a previously invisible senior member of the university administration towards our members and even towards the regional police. Not surprisingly, he is repeating this behaviour at the bargaining table. As such, we have requested the help of the provincially appointed mediator. We hope his presence will result in a return to bargaining, if not decorum, and a new offer from the university. We are planning on meeting with the mediator on Thursday and Friday of this week, and hope that the university will confirm these dates soon. We are still committed to bargaining and to getting a fair deal and will always keep you updated on any progress that we can make at this crucial time.

As we have mentioned in our previous messages, we will be planning another GMM as soon as we can book a space that can accommodate our members. This will allow us to make sure that members fully updated about our progress at the table and are able to discuss the packages tabled by each side.

We continue to assess our childcare needs, and hope to be able to provide accommodations for members soon. If you have children and need childcare accommodations then please contact Alex Diceanu at <>

We have become aware that members are looking for alternative duties to perform. There are a number of different ways that you can contribute your skills to the effort. If you are interested in alternative duties please ask your picket captain. They have a list of positions that need to be filled outside of picketing (especially if you are currently doing double shifts).

If you have not signed up for a picket shift, please drop by the strike office, or go to the lines and sign up there. We can’t wait those who have signed up for pickets tomorrow!

In Solidarity,

Your bargaining team, executive and strike support team


The University recognizes that a work stoppage involving University employees that substantially disrupts academic activities may have a significant impact on the ability of students to carry out their studies. The University also recognizes the need to treat students fairly and equitably, and at the same time, to protect the academic integrity of the University’s courses and programmes.

Once a disruption is declared by the University:1.   Students shall be kept informed in a timely manner of any changes to the course requirements and the rescheduling of any academic activities. If accommodations to course requirements are made with the agreement of both the instructor(s) and student(s), the alternate arrangements cannot be reversed without the agreement of both parties.2.   Students may be unable, or may choose not to, participate in academic activities during a work stoppage; in such cases students shall not be penalized academically. Nevertheless, students remain responsible for meeting course requirements. Students, therefore, have a right to extended deadlines, make-up tests and assignments, reasonable alternative access to course materials, and/or other special arrangements as may be appropriate.  

3.   Course withdrawal deadlines (academic and financial) shall be suspended during a disruption, and extended until one week after the end of a disruption, whether or not the withdrawal deadline has passed, and, in any event, no later than the first day of the Test and Examination ban.

4.   Students may not have the same learning experience during a disruption; however, the University will make every effort to provide the highest quality of education possible at that time.  

5.   A student who considers that a disruption has unreasonably affected his/her grade in a course may appeal the grade in accordance with the procedures described in the Student Appeal Procedures. Any time limit specified in the Student Appeal Procedures that occurs during a disruption shall be extended accordingly.


Unit 1 Members,

We want to thank all of you who came out to the lines yesterday. You reminded the employer that your bargaining team speaks with hundreds of voices! The first day of a strike always needs a little finesse, as members get accustomed to taking job action; however, your support made the first day a great success!

Your bargaining team met with the employer this morning and with the hope the employer finally would join us in dialogue so we can work towards a new collective agreement that we can confidently recommend to the membership. We then spent the afternoon visiting the lines and joining the pickets while our strike coordinators met with a police liaison and campus security to address some overly rambunctious administrators we encountered earlier on in the morning. The issues have been addressed and tomorrow should be even better.

At 4:30 pm, we sat with the employer for 10 minutes at which time they told us that they would review our position document and meet us at the table tomorrow afternoon at 3:30. Although they have rebranded their current position as a best, and not final, offer, they have indicated that this may be the last time that we meet at the table. If you have not signed up for a shift, please drop by the strike office, or go to the lines and sign up there. We can’t wait those who have signed up for pickets tomorrow!

We are assessing our childcare needs, and hope to be able to provide accommodations for members soon. If you have children and need childcare accommodations then please contact Alex Diceanu at
We have become aware that members are looking for alternative duties to perform. There are a number of different ways that you can contribute your skills to the effort. If you are interested in alternative duties please ask your picket captain. They have a list of positions that need to be filled outside of picketing (especially if you are currently doing double shifts).

Click here for a google map to our strike office

In Solidarity,

Your bargaining team, executive and strike support team