Below I've tried to answer some of the common questions and address some of the misunderstandings that have been raised over this forum. While these should not be read as "official statements from CUPE," they are the most accurate answers available, as they are from me, Jesse Payne, one of the staff represnetatives at the bargaining table on behalf of CUPE Unit 1 members. For more information, please visit http://unit1bargaining.wordp ress.com
Did the university administration (our employer) make an offer of settlement to CUPE's bargaining team?
No, the parties (the administration and the union) have not had enough time at the bargaining table for a "settlement offer" to have been made by either party. Some progress has been made, and with each bargaining session there are a number of additional items resolved, which allows both sides to focus in on more difficult items to negotiate, such as benefits, tutorial and lab student/teacher ratios, and protection again the erosion of our total funding due to tuition and cost-of-living increases. In early August, the administration offered an initial "comprehensive proposal," but it did not include any response to many of the union's proposals, as greater discussion was needed at the table. The parties will continue to negotiate through September and into October, and will BOTH work toward being to table an offer that the other party can carefully consider. Until that time, it is not possible that either party can simply "accept what's been offered," as the parties have not yet completed the work at the table needed to produce a final contract for consideration. But both parties will keep the university community informed about the status of talks and are working toward a fair collective agreement.
Has the union held a strike mandate vote? I am entitled to vote, but wasn't available at the time of the open membership meeting and/or balloting, can I still vote?
Yes, the union has begun holding its strike mandate vote, in order to show the administration that the membership supports the bargaining proposals they developed last spring. This is a normal part of the bargaining process, and does not signal that talks have broken down or that a strike is likely. In fact, experience shows that the higher the strike mandate vote results, the greater the likelihood of voiding a strike and reaching a fair, negotiated contract.
The union is holding the strike mandate vote in 3 phases. In each phase, there will be a General Membership Meeting open to all Unit 1 members, followed by voting by secret ballot that night until 10pm and the next day from 10am until 5pm. The next phase will be held on September 2 and 3 and the final phase will be held on September 22 and 23. The union is using this new process to enable more members to take part in discussions about bargaining at our meetings and to vote to give our bargaining team a strike mandate.
If you are a CUPE Unit 1 member, but have not been receiving updated bargaining information, please feel free to send us your updated e-mail to [email protected] rg
. We do not receive an updated list from the administration until late September, so our best form of communication with members will be the membership meetings, direct discussion at our office (B108 Wentworth House), and our blog at http://unit1bargaining.wordp ress.com
. But we will continue to do everything possible to reach all of our member, including putting up information posters around campus, attending departmental orientations in September, holding information sessions about bargaining, and walking door-to-door in departments to try to meet members in person. But we have 3000 members and rely on members staying informed using the blog and by coming to meetings.
Are undergraduate TAs part of Unit 1, and can they vote and participate?
Yes, all Unit 1 members, including undergraduate TAs, markers and lab demonstrators can vote and take part in the bargaining process.
Who sits on the bargaining teams for the union and the administration? Are they highly-paid, professional negotiators?
The administration's bargaining team consists mostly of full-time employees of the university, including administrative staff, professors and a legal team, plus one professional negotiator brought in from outside of the university to negotiate with the union.
The union's bargaining team consists mostly of full-time graduate and undergraduate TAs and students, plus one Sessional Faculty member and 2 union staff representatives. Your elected bargaining team members are highly skilled volunteers, many of whom have graduate degrees and years of experience in labour relations.
While it is often a slow process, we can assure you that because both parties are highly skilled professionals, bargaining is generally a collegial, respectful process.
Since some progress has been made, will the CUPE Unit 1 contract talks (or a possible strike) be settled before the first week of class?
No, bargaining will absolutely not be completed prior to the beginning of classes this September. Talks have been scheduled throughout September and will likely continue into October. There will almost certainly not be a conclusion to bargaining, or a strike by the union or lock-out by the employer, in September. There has NOT been a deadline for bargaining set at this stage, as talks are progressing normally. In the event that either party sets a bargaining deadline, it will be announced widely.
Does CUPE care about students?
Yes. Most of our 3000 Unit 1 members ARE students at McMaster as well as workers, and we are very aware of the anxiety that many students and workers experience during the bargaining process. We are doing everything possible to negotiate a fair contract and avert any possibility of a strike or lock-out this Fall. In the event that negotiations break down and a strike/lock-out deadline is set, we will do everything possible to minimize the impact on any possible disruption on students.
In the event of a labour disruption, will classes be cancelled?
This is unknown at present, and is a decision made by Senate and the university administration. It is expected that more information about the status of classes during a labour disruption will be made available once a bargaining deadline has been set. Until then, progress at the bargaining table continues, andthere is no immediate cause for concern.
Can Unit 1 members be required to picket?
No, Unit 1 members cannot be required to picked. However, only those who picket or perform during to assist in the bargaining process (such as staffing phones, helping process picket pay, etc) will receive picket pay. More information about picketing will be made available shortly.
Thanks for reading, and please keep asking these great questions. The best way to mitigate against the uncertaintly caused by bargaining is to become informed about the process. In solidarity,