CUPE 3906 Unit 1 Bargaining Blog
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Bargaining Bulletin #4 – Strike Mandate Vote

Your bargaining team has continued to work hard at the table to get the Employer’s team to see the merit of our proposals and has started to see positive results. As was announced on our bargaining blog and Facebook group on Friday, August 7th, the Employer has agreed to completely remove their new probationary period proposal from the table. The language in the new agreement will remain the same as the current agreement and so graduate and undergraduate student TAs will not have to suffer through a probationary period! The removal of this concession is a significant victory for the union and was made possible through the support of our members, who spoke out strongly against the probationary period and made it clear to the Employer that their proposal was unacceptable.

The ability to fight off concessions such as the probationary period demonstrates the strong negotiating presence of your Bargaining Team; however, we still have many more key issues where we need to see more movement from the Employer.

We have still seen absolutely no movement on the benefits funds, which fund your vision care, childcare, hardship and UHIP rebate for international students. This unwillingness of the Employer to even fund current demand for these services means, combined with the projected increases in graduate enrolment of 25% for the upcoming academic year, the Union will be forced to make tough cuts to all of these benefits. Without any increase in our current funds we will face the prospect of a very large deficit in the coming fiscal year. The bargaining team has done a projection of what we would be forced to cut from benefits with the Employer’s current proposal and what we could potentially fund with our current proposal.

Projected Benefits for Unit 1 Members:

Item Current Benefit Union Proposal Employer Package
Vision benefit (every 24 months) $250 $250 $200
Child care benefit (per year) $100 $200 $50
UHIP Rebate (per year, international students only) $100 $200 $75
Hardship Fund

(based on need)

Increases to available funds Significant reductions
Prof. Development Fund (per year) $250
Health Spending Account (per year) $100 0
Maximum Available Support $450 $1000 $325

The reductions in benefits are not the only actions from the Employer that have taken money out of TAs pockets. As was detailed in the last two bargaining bulletins, McMaster has significantly raised tuition for all students, resulting in $753 out of pocket for international student TAs and $411 for domestic student TAs.

The Union has put forward a proposal for the university to give this money back to graduate student TAs through a financial assistance stipend, essentially a bursary for the amount of the tuition increase. So far, the employer has made no offer to increase bursaries meaning hundreds of dollars will be taken out of the pockets of TAs, starting in September. The Employer has offered graduate student TAs a small hourly wage increase of 1.1% in the first year of the three year contract, despite the fact that your Bargaining Team proposed no wage increase for these workers, as we know these wage increase are not the most effective way to get money back into TAs’ hands.

Another key issue that the employer has yet to respond on is the quality of undergraduate education at McMaster, which is inherently linked to the overwork of TAs and the number of students squeezed into tutorials and labs. We’ve heard from across campus that TAs work significantly above the 260 hours they are allotted and that classrooms are often too small to fit the number of students enrolled.

To bring about positive change in learning conditions at McMaster, the union has proposed language to limit the number of students per tutorial, per lab and per marking TA.  To address the current overwork of TAs, we have proposed to raise the number of hours offered to a full graduate TA to 280 hours per academic year. This increase of 10 hours / term corresponds to the low end of what our members have told us they work in a semester.

For all students, we know the best way to improve their educational experience is to give them more access to the people who teach and instruct them. To achieve this we need to decrease the number of the students per TA and increase the available hours for TAs to work, which is exactly what your union bargaining team has proposed to do. We know the University has the money to fund these proposals, as the provincial government recently gave the university $5.1 million to specifically improve quality and accessibility of education at McMaster. We need the entire McMaster community to tell this University Administration that its time to start taking quality of education seriously and to put the funding they received to improve quality of education towards areas which will result in real improvements for students across campus.

We will continue to bargain throughout September and into October, but it is clear we need the united front of our membership to show the Employer that we are serious about our proposals. We need to find solutions at the bargaining table to ensure TAs end up with more money in their pocket, not less. The best way to achieve this is to provide your bargaining team with a strike mandate to gain more leverage at the table so we can negotiate a fair collective agreement. To this end, the bargaining team is unanimous in asking for you to support us by voting YES to the strike mandate. The information about the strike mandate vote is attached as Bulletin #4a.

In solidarity,

Your Bargaining Team and Bargaining Support Committee

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