Teaching assistants, postdocs, begin negotiations with McMaster University

Brad WalchukUncategorized


HAMILTON, ON — The union representing teaching assistants and postdoctoral fellows at McMaster University has provided its formal notice to bargain to the McMaster administration.

The union — the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 3906 (CUPE 3906), which represents approximately 3,500 members — is ready to bring forward proposals that will increase equity, fairness, and stability for its members and for the students that they support.

Workers from both bargaining units aim to increase their funding, improve working conditions, and reduce the amount of financial instability that they experience during their time at McMaster. In short, they are looking to build a #BetterMac.

For Unit 1 (teaching assistants), a #BetterMac means fighting to expand the support for mental and physical health and wellness, increase the paid training they receive before they enter the classroom, and achieve better representation for indigenous members.

“We are bargaining for the common good,” said James Watson, member of the Unit 1 Bargaining Team. “This isn’t only about teaching assistant or research assistant work in a narrow sense. It’s about what’s best for the entire McMaster community and what’s best for our students.”

For Unit 3 (postdoctoral fellows), a #BetterMac means fighting to expand the support available for their families and for their academic and career development. It also means the creation of a pension plan, which postdocs have identified a major priority.

“Currently, we don’t have access to a pension plan,” says Zobia Jawed, CUPE 3906 Benefits Officer and member of the Unit 3 bargaining team. “But I want to ensure I have some amount of financial support available for me when I retire.”

“There is a very large difference in retirement savings between a worker who benefits from pension contributions immediately post-PhD, and a worker who has to wait until after their postdoc positions are over,” says Toby Brown, a member of the Unit 3 bargaining team. “It’s important that we find a way to address this earnings gap.”

Now that the notice to bargain has been issued, CUPE 3906’s elected bargaining teams for Units 1 and 3 will prepare their proposals and get ready to meet McMaster’s bargaining teams at the negotiating table. The union and the employer have dates scheduled in early May to begin negotiations for the new Unit 3 collective agreement, and dates set in early June for the new Unit 1 collective agreement.

“In Doug Ford’s Ontario, our education system is under attack at every level,” said Angie Perez, CUPE 3906 President. “That’s all the more reason why McMaster cannot afford to move backwards when it comes to the learning conditions of our students and the working conditions of our teachers and researchers.”

“In this round of bargaining, we need to come together to fight the growth of precarious work on our campus. Our members contribute so much to the McMaster community, and they deserve support to build a family and plan for the future.”

Unit 1 is CUPE 3906’s largest unit with over 2,900 members, and includes graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants, research assistants (in lieu of a TAship), demonstrators, markers, tutors and super tutors. Unit 3 is CUPE 3906’s smallest unit with just over 170 members, and consists of postdoctoral fellows working at McMaster University. Both the Unit 1 and Unit 3 collective agreements expire on August 31.


For more information:

Angie Perez, CUPE 3906 President, president@cupe3906.org

Brad Walchuk, Chief Negotiator – Unit 1, bwalchuk@cupe3906.org

Mary Ellen Campbell, Chief Negotiator – Unit 3, mecampbell@cupe3906.org