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 for more details, or download the Plan Booklet for Single Coverage or the Plan Booklet for Family Coverage.   


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 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:

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 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

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


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 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 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, and 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:

We can be reached with questions or comments at

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


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