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

Bargaining Bulletin #9 – Members Give A Strong Strike Mandate

Our membership has spoken in a unified voice throughout our three phases of strike mandate voting and given the bargaining team a strong strike mandate. You’ve said you won’t stand for reductions in take-home pay, you won’t sit by and watch as your benefits are cut, you won’t continue to be overworked without getting paid. The bargaining team now has the mandate it needs to return to the table and force the University Administration to get serious and offer a fair collective agreement to our members.

The next day at the bargaining table is scheduled for September 30th and it will be the first day with a conciliation officer from the provincial government. Three more days of conciliation are scheduled for Oct 14, 15 and 16th. After having made numerous significant moves over the past two months with absolutely nothing significant in return from the University Administration, it is abundantly clear that the University Administration must return with an updated package on September 30th. Our members have put up with the glacial speed of negotiations for 5 months and have now seen their September paycheques sliced by the University Administration’s massive tuition hikes. It is time for the University Administration to empower its bargaining team to make real decisions at the table so talks can proceed.

On the issue of offering a fair package for our members, we believe it is instructive to consider what’s currently been offered by the University Administration in terms of some other recent expenditures. The amount an outgoing McMaster University President can expect to get as an additional going away “gift” on top of his/her already generous pension and benefit plan is $1.44 million dollars. In the future we will refer to this amount of $1.44 million as 1 presidential gift unit (or PGU). Including benefits and wages, the TA contract at McMaster is worth about $18 million, or 13 PGU’s, the current amount of new money offered to Teaching Assistants by the University Administration is around $200,000 in year one, or 0.142 PGU’s. So we can conclude that McMaster’s 2700 TA’s are worth just a fraction of the extra “top up” that a McMaster University President is worth. Another interesting number in the budget is the $180,000 relocation allowance given to a member of the senior administration. We’re not quite sure how it costs $180,000 to relocate, unless of course you need gold-plated boxes to pack your belongings.

Another interesting benefit you get as a McMaster University President is a $20,000 per year Health Spending Account (HSA). This is of particular interest to our members because we’ve proposed a $60,000 per year HSA for all 2700 of our members to access. As with all items related to benefits, the University Administration has refused to put a single penny forward, yet they have no problems putting $20,000 per year into a health spending account for a single person.

One of the items McMaster constantly tries to reinforce is that it offers TAs compensation above the provincial average. When our research team dug into the real facts and did a fair comparison to other Ontario Universities, nothing could be further from the truth. The real truth is shown in graphs of TA compensation at the bottom of this bulletin. McMaster is at the bottom of the pack when it comes to comparable Universities and there’s no way to sugar coat it.

With TA compensation being so far behind other comparable universities, you would expect an effect on the choices of incoming graduate students. Indeed, we’ve started to get reports from departments across the Engineering and the Sciences Faculties that graduate enrollment targets have not been met for this year. Graduate Student TAs are able to compare offers from multiple Universities side by side and it is clear that McMaster doesn’t stack up. With huge tuition increases, cuts to already minimal benefits, and poor compensation, McMaster just isn’t able to compete with other institutions.

For those of you who have asked how you can help, our Bargaining Support Team has come up with a campaign called “No Pay, no work” to help drive home the fact our TAs are overworked. We ask all TAs to go and download our new hours of work log from: https://unit1bargaining.wordpress.com/hours-of-work/.

This form will allow you to track the time you spend completing TA duties. When you near your contracted amount of hours in the middle of the semester, you will then have the evidence you need to request more paid hours to complete your duties. If you have any questions or concerns about your hours of work form, or how to complete the hours of work log, please contact our staff at staff@cupe3906.org.

Over the next two weeks you will begin to see volunteer members of the union begin strike averting activities. Emails will be going out requesting volunteers for various committees and training, including for picket captains, over the next few weeks. This is a normal part of the process and is something we need to do to ensure the union is prepared for any situation. Your bargaining team is still absolutely committed to reaching a fair collective agreement at the bargaining table, but it would negligent for us not to prepare for the possibility of a strike.

We’ve had some questions about our policy of not released the numbers of strike mandate votes. The bargaining team has written a detailed response as to why it is CUPE 3906 policy to not release the results of strike mandate votes beyond whether there is a legal mandate. The response is available on our blog at:
https://unit1bargaining.wordpress.com/strike-mandate-results

Please contact the bargaining team at: bargaining@cupe3906.org if you have any further questions or comments.

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