CUPE 3906 Postdoctoral Fellows Bargaining Blog

July 25, 2009

Welcome to the CUPE 3906 PDF bargaining blog!

Filed under: CUPE 3906,Uncategorized — CUPE 3906 - McMaster University @ 12:53 pm

November 30, 2009

New PDF Support Fund ~

Last summer, Post-Docs organized with CUPE won a new PDF Support Fund in their new Collective Agreement.  This $20,000 per year fund can be used by members, on a reimbursement basis, for various costs, including medical expenses not covered under the benefits plan, professional development costs (ie. conference travel funding) or other costs not covered by the collective agreement.   The application process for the new PDF Support Fund can be downloaded here.  Funds are limited, so adjudicated amounts are not guaranteed. 

We are very pleased that Post-Docs can begin to utilize this gains made in the first round of collective bargaining, and we look forward to working with Post-Doc members over the coming years to continue to improve our Collective Agreement provisions.

________________________________________________

September 22, 2009

General Membership Meeting — September 29th, 2009

Our first General Membership Meeting of the new year will occur on Tuesday, September 29th, in Divinity College Room 136.  Refreshments will be served at 5:00 P.M., and the meeting will begin at 5:30.  Childcare costs can be covered by the local.

Agenda items include:

* Election of Chief Steward Unit 2, Communications Officer, Undergraduate Officer, International Officer
* Election of Unit 1 Bargaining Team Members: 1 member at large, 1 undergraduate representative, 1 international representative, 1 unit 3 (postdoctoral fellow) representative
* Presentation of bylaw amendments and voting on Unit 3 bylaw amendments
* Voting to destroy ballots from the Unit 3 ratification vote
* Announcement: Creation of 130 hour support group

Attending General Membership Meetings is the easiest way to participate in the democratic decision-making process of the local.  It’s up to you to come out and have your voice heard.

Unit 3 by-law amendments

At our last GMM in the summer, the executive notified the membership of bylaw amendments that address and accommodate our newest unit (Unit 3) in the structure and operations of the local.

Voting on the amendments will occur at our GMM on the 29th.  Click here to view  the amendments, which will also be presented in hard copy at our SGMM tonight.

______________________________________

September 9, 2009

All members of Unit 3, including those members with contract of less than 1 year, are now eligible for coverage under the CUPE 3906 Dental Plan.    Please contact your department administrator, or CUPE 3906 at staff@cupe3906.org for more details, or download the Plan Booklet for Single Coverage or the Plan Booklet for Family Coverage.   

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August 30, 2009

Employer Ratifies Collective Agreement

Our two-year Collective Agreement between the employer Postdoctoral Fellows (PDFs) has been ratified. This is the first collective agreement for McMaster’s Postdoctoral Fellows, and is also the first collective agreement for a stand-alone unit of Postdoctoral Fellows in the country. The ratified agreement can be found here.

Thanks to all of our members and supporters whose work over the past 9 montghs of collective bargaining made the agreement possible.

____________________________________________
 
August 1, 2009
 
McMaster Post-Docs, Represented by CUPE 3906, Ratify First Contract in Canada

On July 30 and 31, 2009, Post-Doctoral Fellows at McMaster voted unanimously in support of a tentative agreement negotiated between their Union, CUPE 3906, and their employer, the central university administration. The deal is the result of 9 months of difficult negotiations, which culminated in 65 hours of marathon bargaining with the assistance of a government-appointed mediator.

Heather Johnson, a member of the Union’s negotiating team, was pleased to announce the tentative agreement to unionized Post-Docs (excluding those emplyed in the Faculty of Health Sciences) last Monday evening, and confirmed that the union had given the contract its unanimous recommendation. The new collective agreement will come into effect once ratified by the university.

The deal, the first for Post-Docs in Canada, represents a major step forward in the fight for fair and equitable wages, benefits and working conditions for Post-Docs, a growing contingent of increasingly precarious university workers, who until now have had little voice and less bargaining power.

The 2-year contract will afford all union members a salary top-up of $500 on September 1st of each year, raises the base rate of $25,000 by 13% over 2 years, and provides minimum per-member stipends of up to $32,000, based on years of service. Teaching Post-Docs, who are not part of CUPE’s Sessional Faculty bargaining unit, will receive a per-student salary top-up when teaching classes of greater than 75 students, and those with enough teaching service as Post-Docs will receive the “seniority rate” of $750 per course of additional pay if they subsequently work in the union’s Sessional Faculty bargaining unit.

From severance pay, to paid vacation of 3-4 weeks per year, to paid sick leave and bereavement leave, to the creation of professional support funds, the list of gains made through collective bargaining is impressive. But for bargaining team member Dr. Marc Ouellette, most satisfying is having been able to begin to address so many core demands identified by members. Says Ouellette, “employer contributions to dental plan premiums, provisions to provide paid maternity leave for up to 17 weeks, and proposals designed to mitigate the precarity of being a Post-Doc are achievements we should all be proud of.”

Jesse Payne, a Staff Representative for the local, is happy to finally see the material results of the union drive that saw a majority of PDFs at McMaster sign cards and vote in favour of joining CUPE late in early 2008. “It was a long process from signing the first union card to signing our first contract,” Payne reflects, “but the new contract makes the years of work worth every second. This in an historic victory for academic workers in Canada, and I hope PDFs across the sector will follow suit and join together to improve their conditions of work.”

The CUPE 3906 bargaining team thanks all those PDFs and other university workers who supported the bargaining process, and has committed to provide any support needed by Post-Doctoral Fellows and other campus workers who are seeking to join a union and make gains to their contract.

See the union’s blog at http://cupesupport.wordpress.com for more details.  The full details of the contract will be made public once ratified by the university.

_________________________________________________________
July 27, 2009

Tentative Agreement Reached — Voting Begins July 30 Following Special Meeting

At 6pm Monday, the bargaining teams representing Post-Doctoral Fellows at McMaster and their employer signed a tentative first collective agreement.  A summary of the tentative agreement can be viewed here.
The Union’s bargaining team is pleased to have a first contract for the newly formed Unit 3, and  is unanimously recommending the ratification of the tentative agreement.

The results of the vote will be available late on Friday, August 1st.  The new collective agreement will come into effect once ratified by the principals (ie. our members and the employer’s Board) of each party.Also see the employer’s press release at:  http://www.mcmaster.ca/opr/labour_relations/cupe_3.html

Thanks to all Unit 3 members and supports for your input and efforts over these past 9 months of bargaining, and to your hard working bargaining team and bargaining support committee.

See you on Thursday and Friday,

CUPE 3906

See our blog at http://cupesupport.wordpress.com for bargaining history and public updates.

The details of the contract will be made available to members of Unit 3 (PDFs) on Thursday, July 30 at 3pm at a Special Membership Meeting, to be held in Wentworth Lounge (beside the Phoenix Pub), held for the purpose of discussing a motion to ratify the tentative agreement, as per Article 11 of the Local 3906 By-Laws.

Members of Unit 3 will be able to vote, by secret ballot, following Thursday’s meeting and on Friday from 10am – 5pm.

Polling will be held in the lobby of Wentworth House.   Voters must bring a form of photo identification.

Unfortunately Wentworth House is not an accessible building and we apologize for holding our vote there. We are working to change this situation in the long term. In the mean time, members who can not access the voting site may contact us directly and we will bring the ballot box to you.

Contact Jesse Payne at 905-525-9140 ext 24003 or 416-577-3903 or jpayne@cupe3906.org

_______________________________________________________
July 25, 2009

Progess Made  in Conciliation – Monday Meeting Postponed and Media Blackout in Effect

This past Thursday through Saturday, the bargaining teams representing PDFs at McMaster and their employer met  in 32 hours of talks.   With the assistance of our government-appointed conciliation officer, significant progress was made at the table.

The parties have committed to return to the table this Monday, July 26, in an attempt to resolve the handful of outstanding issues.

The Special PDF Membership Meeting scheduled for Monday, July 26 at 3pm has been post-poned until later in the week (likely Thursday at 3pm, but watch for updates), in hopes that the parties will be able to complete a tentative agreement prior to the GMM.

In this event, the Union would announce the details of the tentative agreement and both parties would begin the ratification process.   In the event that a tentative agreement is not reached prior to the GMM, it is expected that the union will table and discuss a motion to hold a strike vote.

Details of the special meeting will be announced shortly.  In an effort to foster productive talks this Monday and a collegial completion to the bargaining process, a media and communications blackout has been agreed by both parties. Details of the progress made this past week, including the details of a tentative agreement, if reached, will be made available to CUPE Unit 3 members at the GMM, and to the public as soon as possible therafter.

The CUPE 3906 Unit 3 bargaining team thanks all members and supporters for their patience, input and efforts over the past 9 months.

________________________________________________________________

July 16, 2009

POSTPONED — UNIT 3 SPECIAL GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING:

The meeting scheduled for Monday, July 27th, 2009 has been post-poned.  Please see above for details.

The meeting will likely be held on Thursday, July 30, from 3:00 P.M. – 5:00 P.M, location TBA.

Refreshments will be provided and childcare costs will be covered.  E-mail president@cupe3906.org for more information.

The final details of the meeting will be announced as soon as possible.

______________________________________________________________________

July 7, 2009

Bargaining Bulletin #10

Current Status:

The employer and the Unit 3 bargaining team were at the table for over 30 hours of conciliation on June 16th and 17th. Through this process the parties have reached agreement on almost twenty outstanding items which are detailed in the summary below. Despite the resolution of these items, some very significant issues remain to be resolved including: academic freedom language, probationary periods, wages, an employer dental contribution and benefits for post-docs with less than 1-year contracts.

Gains made in bargaining over the past 8 months:

  • additional funding in year 1 of the contract worth approximately $131,000
  • travel stipend coverage for off-campus work
  • paid bereavement leave
  • all paid holidays for post-docs with contracts of less than 1 year
  • accommodation for religious holidays
  • benefits/vacation, etc, continues uninterrupted when accepting a new position
  • access to gym facilities at McMaster employee rates
  • agreement by parties to negotiate a discounted bus pass rate with HSR
  • agreement between parties to try to negotiate childcare space for post-docs at McMaster facilities
  • coverage by Tuition Waiver policy (on same basis as other full-time employees)
  • guaranteed standard 35 hour work week
  • strong health and safety, harassment, discrimination and workplace violence protection
  • all protective safety equipment will be 100% employer-provided
  • post-docs can access Employee and Family Assistance Program at no cost
  • post-docs with less than 1 year contracts get benefits once extended to 1 year (no waiting period)
  • guarantee that all post-docs and families are entitled to 3 months of employer paid UHIP
  • guarantee that post-docs will never be charged a tuition fee (as happened at U of T)
  • clear evaluations process (and the right to request and get a written evaluation)
  • employer policies which apply to post-docs cannot be amended without prior discussion with union
  • post-docs covered by Whistle-blower policy and Intellectual Property policy
  • labour/management Committee to quickly and collegially address post-docs’ concerns
  • binding dispute resolution process with access to independent arbitrator
  • access to a union representative in academic dishonesty hearings

Issues Close to Resolved:

  • raising base salary rate (to at least U of T levels and beyond)
  • paid sick leave (2 weeks)
  • small employer-paid professional development/support fund provided each year
  • paid vacations protected and, in most cases, increased (2-4 weeks minimum)
  • teaching post-docs will have per-student pay top-up based on class size
  • probationary period
  • drug/dental/vision/health plan protected by CA and can’t be rolled back

Key Issues that Remain unresolved:

  • wages (stable increases vs. signing bonus and $ value in second year)
  • layoff notice/pay in lieu
  • paid parental leaves
  • academic freedom
  • benefits: dental contribution, and paid benefits for post-docs with less-than-1-year contracts
  • Seniority

What’s Next:

Two more days of conciliation have been planned for July 23rd and 24th. At the CUPE General Members Meeting on June 22nd, a motion was passed reaffirming member’s support of the bargaining team’s efforts and compelling the team to hold a Special Membership Meeting 72 hours after the July 24th conciliation date. At this meeting, the results of the conciliation process will be presented to Unit 3 members.

Thanks to Unit 3 members for their support over the past year. With your ongoing assistance, we hope to successfully complete the bargaining process with a strong collective agreement soon.

____________________________________________________________________

June 23, 2009

at 3am on the morning of June 18, the Unit 3 bargaining team tabled an offer designed to bring about a resolution to an 8-month bargaining process, with a fair collective agreement that would afford Post-Doctoral Fellows at McMaster a reasonable degree of respect, wage security and professional supports and benefits.   You can view the package here.

The parties have requested an additional date with the government-appointed conciliation officer, which we expect will be held in the next few weeks, and hope will bring about a fair first contract for PDFs.  Failing success at the table, the parties would then be faced with many difficult options.   CUPE will hold a special meeting for Unit 3 members within 72 hours following the end of the next day of conciliation.  Details will follows shortly.

Your CUPE 3906 Bargaining team

______________________________________________

May 30, 2009

Bargaining Bulletin #9 – Union Awaits Employer’s Response on Key Issues

On Friday, June 5 from 11am-1pm, the bargaining teams for the union representing Post-Docs at McMaster and their employer will meet at the table in one of 2 planned pre-conciliation negotiation sessions. While progress continues to be made, albeit at a slowed pace, in recent weeks, key issues such as wages, benefits remain unresolved.

Members of Unit 3 interested in attending the session should contact staff@cupe3906.org or visit the office at 10:45am on June 5. Members who are interested in viewing the employer’s package (their 11th in 7 months) or discussing the status of talks with the union’s bargaining team are invited to stop by the union office from 2-3pm that afternoon.

The parties will meet again on Tuesday, June 9th, when the union expects to table its 14th proposals package. The union is hopeful that most issues may be resolved prior to entering conciliation with the Ontario Ministry of Labour later in June.

The CUPE 3906 bargaining team would like to express thanks to all those Post-Docs who have participated in discussions, given input and provided various forms of support during this lengthy bargaining process. Negotiating a first collective agreement is never an easy task, and this challenge is compounded in that ours will be the first contract in Canada for Post-Doctoral Fellows. As such, both the union and the employer have been under scrutiny from workers and employers at other Canadian universities, who are aware that what we win at McMaster will set the standards for the employment of Post-Docs across the country for years to come.

In recent years, the opportunities available to graduate students entering the academic workforce have greatly diminished. Workers with doctorates, and actually the “lucky ones,” have increasingly found themselves taking contract or limited term teaching and research positions at lower pay, with fewer benefits, and with little of the job security afforded to other skilled workers.

The issues facing the education sector and its workers, and especially organizations and unions representing Post-Docs, in the years ahead cannot be fully addressed at one university, by one union, or in one round of collective bargaining. That said, we agree with our Unit 3 members that Post-Docs at McMaster do valuable work and deserve the same respect, the same basic rights and protections, and the same benefits as other McMaster staff, and will continue to voice that important message to the employer.

In all honesty, while the improvements proposed by the union would bring Post-Docs much closer to parity with other campus staff, it would still be inadequate to achieve fair and equitable treatment for Post-Docs as compared with other full or even part-time staff at McMaster. Moreover, the reality is that the union will have to make further movement in the weeks ahead, as we attempt to finalize an agreement that can be brought to you, the Post-Docs, for consideration.

Rest assured, though, that your bargaining team, and your union leadership, will continue to do everything it can to advocate on your behalf around the issues you have prioritized. CUPE is Canada’s largest union, and represents the largest number of public sector and education workers in Ontario and nation-wide. In joining a union, you have created the foundation to ensure ongoing improvements to your working conditions, and the years ahead will continue to bring new challenges and new opportunities.

We look forward to bringing a tentative agreement for your consideration this summer, thank you for your patience and support, and wish you all the best with your ongoing research, instruction and professional development.

All the best from your bargaining team.
_______________________________________________

Conciliation to begin in June

May 19, 2009

Today, the CUPE 3906 Post-Doctoral Fellow (Unit 3) bargaining team filed for conciliation with the Ontario Ministry of Labour.

Conciliated talks between the university administration and the union’s team will likely convene in early June, and may proceed as long as fruitful discussion and progress are being made.

The parties will meet at least once prior to conciliation, beginning on May 26, when the union’s bargaining team will table their 13th proposals package. Amendments to the union’s position will focus primarily on non-monetary issues, in an attempt to resolve as many issues as possible prior to meeting with the Ministry’s appointed officer.

The union is hopeful that the employer will respond to their May 26th package in full prior to the beginning of conciliation, and believes this would be a great sign of good faith in the negotiations process.

More information will be available here shortly.

_________________________________________

May 13, 2009

Special Post-Doctoral Fellow Drop-in Consultation May 15, 2009

The CUPE 3906 Unit 3 Bargaining Team is holding a special PDF drop-in session from 1-3pm on Friday, May 15, in B108 Wentworth House.

The drop-in session is designed to allow all members of Unit 3 (Post-Docs at McMaster outside of Health Science) a chance to view and share their thoughts about the union’s and the employer’s most recent offer, as tabled on May 5, 2009. The union’s most recent package can be viewed here.

The employer’s most recent offer includes:

* a monetary offer of less than 3% in the first year (or just under 1.5% in each of 2 years), payable as a lump sum to bargaining unit members
* a $10,000 fund for Post-Doc professional development, hardship and other costs
* movement on sick leave, bereavement leave and paid vacation
* an increase to the base annual rate of pay in the unit (but not yearly increases for those paid above the base)
* protections against wage and benefits erosion during the life of the contract

Their monetary offer does not include:

* improvements to benefits, such as employer contributions to the monthly dental premium
* any access to the pension plan or RRSP contributions by the employer
* a yearly wage increase (except for those working at the ‘base rate”)
* meaningful academic freedom language
* benefits for Post-Docs with initial contracts of less than 1 year
* paid maternity leave

If Post-Docs continue to believe that the new contract should bring additional improvements to wages, working conditions and benefits, there are many options available to us.

At this stage, the union and/or the employer may request the assistance of a government-appointed conciliation officer. The “conciliation” process would begin within the next few weeks, and could last for as long as requested by the parties to help us achieve a fair settlement. If outstanding issues remain following conciliation, the union or the employer may request the services an independent arbitrator, who will hear submissions from both parties and impose a settlement on those remaining items. Because this is a first collective agreement, either party may request that the Labour relations Board require the other party to agree to the arbitration process.

Members may wish to utilize this option if the employer ceases to continue to make meaningful movement as bargaining continues. More information on these options is available here.

The union’s Bargaining Team wishes to meet with as many Post-Docs as possible this Friday, May 15, between 1 and 3pm, in order to solicit feedback regarding the current state of proposals by both parties, priorities issues, and available options members wish to utilize. See you soon.

__________________________________________________

A Fair First Contract for McMaster University’s Post-Doctoral Fellows

We are about 130 post-doctoral fellows (PDF) working for McMaster University. We recently organized and joined CUPE 3906, which also represents Teaching Assistants and Sessional Faculty at McMaster, to improve our working and earning conditions.

For the past eight months, we’ve been negotiating with McMaster administration to achieve our first contract. Our goal is simple: a fair contract that includes a fair and competitive wage, benefits that other McMaster University staff are entitled to and professional development support that will further enhance McMaster University’s research reputation.

Please help us achieve a fair first contract. Take a moment to send an e-mail to the Provost, Dean of Graduate Studies and Lisa Newton in Employee Relations provost@mcmaster.ca, deangrad@mcmaster.ca and lnewton@mcmaster.ca. Tell the McMaster Administration that you support CUPE 3906 post-doctoral fellows in their quest to achieve a fair first contract.

Send an electronic letter to the McMaster administration supporting our call for a fair first contract!

about us ~

CUPE 3906, Unit 3, represents 130 Post-Doctoral Fellows employed at McMaster University each year.

Unit 3 was organized in early 2008, when a majority of McMaster’s Post-Doctoral Fellows signed union cards and voted to recognize CUPE 3906 as their certified bargaining agent.

For the past 8 months, the Unit 3 (Post-Doctoral Fellow) Bargaining Team has been in talks with our employer, negotiating the terms of our first collective agreement.

We are very of our achievements during the past year, but there is much work to be done. As the first organized union of PDFs at the bargaining table in Canada, both the Union and the Employer know that the universities and their workers across the country are watching.

bargaining status at present ~

This blog is launching at a crucial moment in our negotiations. Having initially made good progress on issues such as the dispute resolution process, health and safety protections, harassment and discrimination language and other “non-monetary” language, the refusal of the Employer to afford basic academic freedom to Unit 3 members and the commencement of monetary talks 2 weeks ago have shed light on the challenges we face in the coming weeks, as bargaining continues.

At present, the Employer is seeking wage concessions, including a minimum base rate of $25,000, significantly undercutting and devaluing the present-day wages of all Post-Doctoral Fellows at McMaster.

Further, the Employer has responded with silence to the Union’s (fairly modest) proposal of a 2% per year incremental wage increase, slightly under the average in the sector during the past decade.

Finally, the Employer has proposed to freeze benefits at current (pre-union) entitlements, leaving Post-Doctoral Fellows as the only full-time, continuous McMaster University employees who are excluded from the Employer-paid Dental and Pension plans, and who are excluded from the maternity and parental leave EI supplements afforded to other workers.

In our view, Post-Doctoral Fellows deserve better, and have a right to the same entitlements and protections as other McMaster employees.

what’s next ~

We have only 1 more bargaining date, scheduled for May 5, and the Union has set a goal of having a contract completed by mid-May, so that the details can be discussed at the late-May General Membership meeting. (In June, CUPE 3906 begins bargaining the next Teaching and Research Assistants’ [Unit 1] contract).

While the Union continues to internally discuss priority issues, our bargaining team has tabled a package that contains the minimum standards that PDFs have mandated must be included in our contract. The possibility of a May 2009 completion date depends on the willingness of the Employer to return to the table with a more reasonable package for Post-Doctoral Fellows.

Following the May 5 bargaining session, at which we expect the employer to table a revised monetary package, we will be publishing the intricate details of the status of negotiations on this blog. Additional information about 3906 generally, including more information for Post-Doctoral Fellows, can be found at our website: www.cupe3906.org.

We can be reached with questions or comments at staff@cupe3906.org.

In the weeks (and hopefully not months) ahead, we continue to rely on support from across the university sector and broader labour movement. This is an important moment for the university sector. With PDFs at the University of Toronto currently seeking union recognition through CUPE 3902, with PSAC-organized PDFs at the University of Windsor fighting for full recognition and bargaining rights, and as more and more Post-Docs will seek union rights and greater job protections and benefits in the years ahead, the weight of the precedent set by this first PDF contract at McMaster will be felt at universities across the country.

We will keep you posted!

In solidarity,

CUPE 3906 – Unit 3 Bargaining Team

September 8, 2009

Collective Agreement for PDFs Ratified by Employer

Filed under: CUPE 3906,Uncategorized,Updates — CUPE 3906 - McMaster University @ 11:50 am

August 30, 2009

Our two-year Collective Agreement between the employer Postdoctoral Fellows (PDFs) has been ratified. This is the first collective agreement for McMaster’s Postdoctoral Fellows, and is also the first collective agreement for a stand-alone unit of Postdoctoral Fellows in the country. The ratified agreement can be found here.

Thanks to all of our members and supporters whose work over the past 9 montghs of collective bargaining made the agreement possible.

April 29, 2009

Bargaining Bulletin #6 – April 29 Update

Filed under: Uncategorized — CUPE 3906 - McMaster University @ 6:22 pm

April 29, 2009

Dear Member,

As you know, we have been bargaining a first contract for Post-doctoral Fellows here at McMaster. We have been at the table since November, and the process has been slow – but we are close to a conclusion! While bargaining has gone smoothly in places and we have made important gains, the process has ground to a halt because the employer has not moved on four essential components of the final agreement:

  • Wage erosion protection
  • Benefits
  • Academic freedom
  • Complete participatory rights as members of the McMaster community

As part of our commitment to reach a fair settlement, we have moved significantly in our proposals, and particularly in our monetary proposals. However, we remain committed to the principles established at the beginning of the process. On April 17th we presented what we feel is the minimum package we can agree to. We met the Employer today (April 29th), but did not receive a response to our proposals. They have indicated that we will receive a comprehensive response at the next meeting on May 5th.

Today, you may have received an email from the Dean of Graduate Studies, Alison Sekuler, regarding the bargaining process. Regarding the content of “Setting the Record Straight”, the Union stands behind our earlier communications.

  • A base salary that is $15,000 below the current average sets the stage for wage concessions. Further, a wage rate that has no annual increase to match the cost of living is, in effect, concessionary.
  • The Employer has tabled no new benefits or money in any category for PDF support over a three year contract. This is a freeze. Indeed, in the context of an economic recession, it sets the stage for rollbacks if funding is reduced (please see the Employer’s package posted on our blog at http://cupesupport.wordpress.com/ ).

Dr. Sekuler also states that we have proposed language that would enable a PDF to be replaced or “bumped.” This is fundamentally and categorically inaccurate. Our top priority is job security. What we have tabled is a proposal that stipulates that in the event that laid off employees are recalled, they must be recalled in order of seniority, provided they remain qualified to do the work.

In Dr. Sekuler’s email, she implied that the Union is planning to take action without first consulting our members. Again, this is untrue. We have always, and will always, operate at the direction of our members. Throughout bargaining we have endeavoured to keep PDFs informed of our proposals, and to engage them in our decisions. Our office continues to be open and we welcome your contributions, questions and participation. Our final proposal package is available online at http://cupesupport.wordpress.com/ .

Please visit the blog, post comments and questions, and feel free to contact us. Further, in the FAQ section there is information about Conciliation, Mediation, Arbitration, Strike Votes and other elements of the bargaining process and how they work. Please ask us any questions that may arise from this – or any other- material.

We are holding a Special General Membership Meeting for Post-Doctoral Fellows on Thursday May 7th at 4pm at the Union Office (B108 Wentworth House). Please come out, see the package, ask your questions and participate in the process. Your engagement at this time is crucial!

We hope that our next meeting will be productive in resolving the remaining issues, and that conciliation (bringing in a government mediator) will not be necessary. To help us achieve a resolution, please send a letter of support to the Employer by visiting http://cupe.ca/action/mcmaster-post-doctoral-fellows.

In Solidarity;

Your Bargaining Team

CUPE 3906

April 18, 2009

Bargaining Bulletin #5 – April 17 Update

Filed under: Bargaining Bulletins,CUPE 3906,Uncategorized,Updates — CUPE 3906 - McMaster University @ 10:29 pm

Bargaining Bulletin #5April 17 Update

April 17, 2009, saw the university administration and the union representing Post-Doctoral Fellows at McMaster University making important progress on non-monetary items, but in a continuing stalemate regarding wages, benefits and professional development supports.

Union Movement

The day saw movement on both sides, with the Union tabling modified academic freedom protections, and moving substantially on monetary items, proposing a package that includes a total compensation increase of less than 6%, including:

* a 2% wage increase (less than the university sector average of 3%)

* an employer contribution of 50% of the dental plan premium (as opposed to 100% provided at all other staff)

* a 2% RRSP contribution (as opposed to the larger contribution to pensions provided to all other staff)

* a small guarantee of $500/year for professional development support (much less than afforded to Faculty)

Employer Movement

The Employer provided meaningful language pertaining to hours of work and the job postings protocol, but retained their position of a o.o% increase to total compensation over 3 years.

Update on Remuneration

The Union had previously reported that on April 6 the Employer signaled willingness  to seek a greater monetary mandate from their principals.  We regret to inform members and supporters that they have clarified their position.  They have asked that we confirm their position that, while any increase in compensation and benefits beyond the proposed 0.0% increase over 3 years would require that they “ask” for a modified monetary mandate, they have NOT committed to “seek” such a mandate.

Next Steps

The Union’s bargaining team has made it clear, based on ongoing guidance from the Post-Doctoral Fellows we represent at the bargaining table, that we CANNOT accept a contract that freezes wages and benefits at unacceptable levels for the next 3 years.   As such, while further monetary movement may be possible depending on the will of the membership, the monetary package offered by the Union on April 17 will NOT be reduced until the Employer has provided a monetary package that at least keeps pace with inflation and the increases afforded to other McMaster staff.

Bargaining dates have been set for April 29 and May 5, 2009, and the progress on these days will indicate whether any further negotiations will be possible in the absence of a government-appointed conciliation officer.

Should a meaningful proposal be tabled by the Employer in the coming weeks, the planned end of May deadline for negotiations may still be possible.   Otherwise, negotiations will continue through the Summer, with the assistance of the Ministry of Labour, and the Union will call together members to consider all available options.

Watch this blog for updates as they unfold.

April 15, 2009

Annual Membership Meeting

Filed under: CUPE 3906,Meetings,Uncategorized,Updates — CUPE 3906 - McMaster University @ 5:04 pm

WHAT: GMM and AGM

WHEN: April 22nd, 2009, 5:30 P.M.

WHERE: Divinity College, Room 136

This is a reminder that our next GMM and Annual General Meeting will occur next Wednesday, April 22nd, at 5:30 P.M. in Divinity College room 136.

Refreshments will be provided at 5:00 P.M. and childcare costs can be covered by the local.

Since this is the Annual General Meeting, a number of important items are on the agenda, including the election of executive officers, the ratification of Unit 1 bargaining priorities and the election of a unit 1 bargaining team, and an update on the Unit 2 job cuts and Unit 3 bargaining. All members can run for executive positions, and all Unit 1 members can run for bargaining team positions.

This is one of the most important meetings of the year–please come out, vote, and have your voice heard.

April 13, 2009

April 6 Negotiations Update

Filed under: Bargaining Bulletins,CUPE 3906,Updates — CUPE 3906 - McMaster University @ 2:28 pm

On April 6, 2009, the CUPE 3906 Unit 3 (PDF) negotiating team met with the Employer (the university administration) after a 2-week hiatus.

Though neither party tabled an amended proposals document, agreement was reached on a number of outstanding non-monetary items.

Setting aside an ongoing dispute between the parties about the Employer’s proposed “base rate” of pay for Post-Doctoral Fellows of $25,000/year, the parties have now focused attention on the total % increase in total compensation each PDF will receive this year, and beyond.

The parties discussed the framework for a financial settlement package, based on an agreed current total compensation figure.   The Employer and Union cost the total compensation (wages, benefits and support funding) to be approximately $5.5 million.   Based on this figure, each 1% increase in total compensation is calculated to be valued at $55,000, spread across the bargaining unit of 130 Post-Doctoral Fellows, or approximately approximately $423 dollars per year per member.

The Union’s most recent package proposed an increase of approximately 10-12% in the first year.  This includes a 3% wage increase, a provision to afford PDFs “employer-paid” dental coverage, benefits for PDFs with less than 1-year contracts, and small funds to ensure that all PDFs have access to guaranteed research, professional development and conference travel funding.

The Employer has proposed only to “freeze” total spending on benefits and other supports at current levels,  maintaining that they have a “status quo” mandate.   As such, for the duration of their proposed 3-year contract, they have offered a 0.0% increase to total compensation, and a $0.00 yearly increase per member for wages, benefits and funding.

Through discussions we’ve had during ongoing consultations with Post-Doctoral Fellows, the Union feels confident asserting that this offer is not acceptable.  As such, on April 6 the Union asked the Employer to seek from the Board of Governors (and specifically the Remunerations Committee) a greater monetary “envelop” for yearly increases for PDFs at McMaster, stating clearly that a yearly increase in the realm of “full percentages” was needed to allow the parties to reach a speedy and collegial resolution.

In response, the Employer stated that, as it currently has a mandate of securing a wage and benefits freeze for 3 years (“status quo”), providing even modest monetary improvements to the key areas of the contract identified by Post-Docs (such as dental premiums support and a small yearly cost of living increase) would require that the Employer’s bargaining team “ask” for increased flexibility from its “principals” to what types of improvements to the contract its allowed to offer.

It is unclear at present whether the Employer’s bargaining team will “ask for” and/or be afforded the ability to begin to bargain small monetary improvements.   Watch this blog for updates on this important question.

In the meantime, the Union is working to draft a refined proposal that includes gains in priority areas identified by Post-Docs, but that is mindful of the constraints imposed by the current economic situation.    The package will be created with vast input from Unit 3 members themselves, and will be tabled on Friday, April 17, 2009.

Following this date, negotiations will likely not resume until the administration has sought and secured some monetary flexibility (in the range of a few percentage increases per year) from the BoG Remunerations Committee, and will likely re-convene by the mid to late May.

The Union had initially set the goal of having a tentative contract for consideration by the membership by the end of May.  However, this will only be possible if the Employer returns to the table with a reasonable offer that meets the priority needs identified by PDFs in Unit 3.

Failing progress by the end of May, negotiations will continue through the Summer, and the Union will begin internal discussions as to how to most effectively proceed, and may seek the assistance of a government appointed officer to mediate the talks, so as to ensure the quickest and most fair settlement possible.

We will continue to update this site as details unfold, and expect to have a significant update following the bargaining session on scheduled for April 17, 2009.

April 5, 2009

CUPE 3906 Letter to CRA re: PDF Employment Status at McMaster

Filed under: CUPE 3906,Letters — CUPE 3906 - McMaster University @ 11:16 am

06 February 2009

The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn
Minister of National Revenue
555 MacKenzie Avenue, 7th Floor
Ottawa ON  K1A 0L5

Mr. William V. Baker
Commissioner – Chief Executive Officer of the CRA
555 MacKenzie Avenue – 7th Floor
Ottawa ON  K1A 0L5

Re: Post-Doctoral Fellow Status

Dear Minister Blackburn and Commissioner Baker,

I understand that the CRA is presently undergoing a broad internal review of policies pertaining to the status of Post-Doctoral Fellows (PDFs), and specifically regarding their eligibility to be issued a T2202A and to have some or all of their income qualify for tax exemption status. As the certified bargaining agent for approximately 130 PDFs at McMaster University, CUPE Local 3906 has been attentive to the ongoing discussion concerning this issue amongst various associations of PDFs and across many universities. Having reviewed the recent University of Alberta (Bekhor) appeal on the subject, and aware of the implications of the upcoming decision on the matter, I appreciate that this is indeed a complex issue. I provide the information below in hopes of assisting the CRA in developing a policy for the determination of the status of PDFs which reflects the reality of their relations to their institutions, and accounts for the nature of their labour.

While cognizant that the nature of PDF employment is diverse across and even within universities across the country, this letter shall confirm that, in the case of McMaster, the relationship between the vast majority of PDFs and the university is foremost one of employment, as distinct from that between a student and their academic programme. As is mutually recognized by the union and the employer, which are presently bargaining the first PDF collective agreement at McMaster, these relations are governed at our university by contracts of employment in which each PDF sells their labour in exchange for wages, rather than by guarantees of financial assistance for PDFs in support of their continuing academic studies.

The relationship described above is articulated and reinforced in a variety of ways. The university formally recognizes and classifies the vast majority of PDFs as “employees,” rather than as students, trainees, apprentices, or independent contractors. Further, PDFs are subject to university policies which apply to staff, rather than to those which apply to students. Additionally, as employees, PDFs are entitled to the full-time employee benefits plan, rather than the graduate student plan, and the university withholds and remits all statutory employment deductions and benefits contributions from and for PDFs. Finally, even preceding a collective agreement between the parties, there exist elaborate procedures for hiring, directing and terminating PDFs in the university’s employ.

While I will reserve comment on debates regarding the possible benefits and dangers of assigning PDFs the status of students or apprentices, rather than workers, as a labour union representing both undergraduate and graduate student workers and non-student contingent and full-time workers at McMaster, CUPE 3906 believes that all workers have the fundamental right to have their labour recognized and valued, to be remunerated fairly for their labour, and to collectively assert their labour power in an effort to secure the protections of a binding collective agreement. However well intentioned, any move to alter or mystify the status of Post-Doctoral Fellows which seeks or effects a claw-back of these fundamental rights, for example through the introduction of tuition or ancillary fees, which some have suggested may be the eventual result of a reckless blanket classification of PDFs as any category of students, would surely be to the long-term detriment of these workers, their associations and their employing institutions.

Please contact me at president@cupe3906.org should you require clarification or further discussion regarding the above.

Sincerely,

Mary Ellen Campbell – President, CUPE 3906

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