Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the bargaining process and our current rounds of negotiations.

→ Who is CUPE Local 3906?

CUPE Local 3906 is the union that has represented academic workers at McMaster University since 1979, and continues to do so.  We are divided into three units: Unit 1 (TAs/RAs in lieu), Unit 2 (Sessional Faculty and Hourly Rated Sessional Music Faculty) and Unit 3 (Post-Doctoral Fellows).

One of the main things that we do is bargain and enforce a collective agreement for each of our three units.

What is collective bargaining?

Collective bargaining is a process in which a trade union and an employer negotiate the renewal of a previous collective agreement.

What is a collective agreement?

A collective agreement is a written contract of employment covering a group of employees who are represented by a trade union. This agreement contains provisions governing the terms and conditions of employment, including provisions such as job security. A copy of the current Unit 2 collective agreement is available here.

What are the major issues?

Our bargaining bulletins outline the major issues and provide a useful comparison of the union’s and employer’s proposals. Our most recent bulletin, from late August, is available here. Clearly job security has emerged as the top priority, and one that your union is looking to make improvements to. The employer (McMaster), on the other hand, is not proposing any meaningful improvements to job security provisions.

Based on a membership survey sent out in early 2017 and a bargaining proposals ratification meeting in May, Unit 2 members (Sessionals) determined that the following were major priorities:

  • Increased Job Security
  • Increased Wages
  • Improved Health Care Benefits
  • A functional dental plan
  • Measures to address increased workload
  • Increased to the Professional Development Fund
  • Regulations Around Student Evaluations
  • Pension/Retirement Security


What is the role of an ordinary member in the collective bargaining process?

The most important thing a member can do during bargaining is to stay informed of what is happening. Your bargaining team produces regular updates and holds information sessions, watching for these in your workplace helps keep you in the know. In early 2017, members also completed the bargaining survey to ensure that they had an impact on the bargaining agenda.

Beyond staying informed, members can be involved in many ways. You could volunteer to be a member of the bargaining support team (contact A member could volunteer to organize members in their workplace through lunch time meetings and actions in the workplace.

What happens if, during negotiations, the employer and the union cannot agree on the terms of a collective agreement?

Either the employer or the union may ask the Ontario Minister of Labour to appoint a conciliation officer. This officer will then try to help them reach an agreement.

What is conciliation?

Conciliation is a process by which a trade union or an employer can ask the Ontario Ministry of Labour for help in resolving their differences so that they can reach a collective agreement. Either party may apply to the ministry. If parties are in negotiations, they must use, the government’s conciliation services before they can get into a position to engage in a strike or lock-out.