Unit 3 (Postdoc) Collective Agreement Ratified – Important Gains Secured for Members

Brad WalchukUncategorized

We are happy to announce that the collective agreement which postdocs voted in favour of in April is now in place, as the employer (McMaster University) ratified the agreement at a Board of Governors meeting last week. This agreement, and the gains contained within it, would not have been possible without the support and solidarity that postdocs have shown over the past 12 months. A tentative version of your new collective agreement can be found here (a finalized version will be posted before the end of the week).


The current base/minimum salary for postdocs has increased from $36,200 per year to $40,000 per year (effective immediately) and will increase again to $42,500 on September 1, 2023. Any postdoc earning less than the minimum will receive an immediate increase to their yearly salary to the new minimum rate. By September 1, 2026, the minimum salary will be $50,000 per year, which is currently the highest minimum salary for postdocs in the country. These increases amount to 38.1% over 5 years, with an average of 7.6% per year and an immediate increase of 10.5%.

In addition to these increases, all unionized postdocs employed on June 8, 2023 will receive a bonus of $300. This will be reflected on a forthcoming pay cheque.

Health and Dental Benefits

One of the most notable gains under this collective agreement is a new health and dental benefits plan through SunLife. This will result in significant improvements to the existing SunLife health plan and Equitable Life dental plan and will streamline filing benefits. The existing plans covers most procedures and paramedical services to a maximum of $15 per appointment and $200 per year, while the new plan covers most procedures and services at 100% and to a maximum of $500 per year.

The previous plan covered only psychologists, while the new plan covers Psychologists, Social Workers, Psychotherapists, Psychoanalysts, Registered Clinical Counselors, Licensed Marriage and Family therapists. Your new dental plan now covers also covers orthodontic procedures. This plan is fully paid by the employer (for both single coverage and dependent coverage), meaning that you will no longer need to pay $7.29/month for single coverage ($87.48 per year) or $71.94/month for family coverage ($863.28 per year) for dental benefits.

A full comparison and list of the new benefits is available here: https://cupe3906.org/wp-content/blogs.dir/501/2023/06/Postdoc-Health-and-Dental-Plan-Summary-Chart.pdf

The new plan is effective as of September 1, 2023 and the existing plan remains in place until August 31, 2023.  More specific details about the changes to the dental plan are forthcoming; for now, please do see the summary chart linked above.

Health Care Spending Account

In addition to the above increases to the health and dental benefits plan, we have also increased the Health Care Spending Account fund from its current $47,500 to $70,000 per year, with a further increase to $80,000 in 2024. This is the fund that your current Health Care Spending Account comes from. What does this mean for you?

Your benefits committee recently voted to increase your yearly entitlement from $300 per academic year to $450 per academic year. This increase becomes effective as of September 1, 2023 (the current entitlement remains in place until August 31, 2023). The fund covers items that are not covered or not fully covered by the SunLife plan. More information about the HCSA is available here: https://cupe3906.org/postdocs-unit-3/post-doc-health-spending-account/.  A new reimbursement form will be available soon.

Gender Affirmation Fund and Reproductive Health Fund

Based on membership feedback and as a commitment to an inclusive and equity-seeking local, your bargaining committee negotiated language to ensure that the health care spending account specifically includes “support for reproductive health and well-being and gender affirming care.”

Your benefits committee has determined that the maximum eligibility will be set at $2,000 per academic year. For clarification, this would mean that members could claim up to $2000 in gender affirming care OR reproductive health care OR some combination of the two e.g., $1000 in gender affirming care and $1000 reproductive health. Entitlement to this fund is retroactive to September 1, 2022.

We are still updating criteria and finalizing an application form, but some information can be found here: https://cupe3906.org/postdocs-unit-3/gender-affirmation-fund-reproductive-health-fund/

Professional Development Fund

The Professional Development Fund is a union-administered benefits fund designed to cover/offset various costs (ie/ books, conferences, memberships, etc.). Previously this fund was $47 500, but your bargaining team made significant increases here and the fund is now $80,000 and will increase to $100,000 per year in 2024.

As a result of these increases, your benefits committee has voted to increase your current entitlement from $600 per academic year to $1000 per academic year on a trial basis. The forms will be updated soon, but more information is available here: https://cupe3906.org/postdocs-unit-3/postdoctoral-fellow-professional-development-fund/

Postdoctoral Support Fund

The postdoctoral support fund is an employer-administered benefits fund to cover/offset unexpected or emergency costs, extended UHIP, and childcare expenses. In this most recent of bargaining, we secured support for “moving or relocation expenses” and increased your reimbursement entitlement from $500 to $750. An updated and application form and more information will be made available soon, but you can find support fund website here: https://gs.mcmaster.ca/app/uploads/2020/01/postdoctoral_support_fund_2017.pdf

Other Gains

In addition to the above-noted monetary gains, your bargaining team also secured the following:

  • Anti-Discrimination – a right to be referred to by self-identified gender pronouns
  • Postings- preference in hiring for Indigenous, Inuit, and Metis scholars for postings in Indigenous Studies Dept.
  • Access to email for 12 months following the end of your appointment
  • An additional seat on the health and safety central committee for postdocs
  • Stronger language to not have to work on statutory holidays
  • Supplementary Benefits (ie/ paid leave) were expanded to include miscarriage, stillbirth, and adoption
  • Vacation – a clear ability to carry over and use within 4 months of next calendar year, and ability to receive payout for all unused vacation at end appointment
  • Access to leave, without loss of pay, for members requiring leaves for reproductive health and well-being and gender-affirming care
  • An additional 5 days leave, with pay, for those who require domestic violence leave

To ring in the summer and celebrate these collective gains, all postdocs are invited to a bargaining social event at The Phoenix on June 27 at 5:30 PM with free dinner and drinks.

To RSVP, please fill out this form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc6O-LTlX8VhUNRqZc3Nl8RYlIQC1wr201wvzKvsxQatUcv-Q/viewform