CUPE 3906 Postdoctoral Fellows Bargaining Blog

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.


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