Overworked? Your Collective Agreement Can Help

Brad WalchukUncategorized

We regularly hear of TAs being overworked, primarily because they are provided more assignments than they can reasonably mark in the time allocated. We often hear of TAs being allocated 10 to 15 minutes for an entire essay and are expected to provide feedback to students in that time. Under your Collective Agreement, the employer cannot act in a way that is unreasonable or arbitrary, and assigning too much work without detail of how it can and should be completed is a violation of your rights. Article 12.02(c) or your Collective Agreement states that your professor must provide you with “…details about the nature, number, and scheduling of specific assignments and the estimated hours of work each will involve. The employee and Employment Supervisor will discuss this information, taking into account course enrollment, nature of assignments, and expectations for grading, in determining reasonable workload.” If your Hours of Work form does not reflect this level of detail and direction, you are being set up to be overworked. If you have concerns, please reach out to us and we can provide assistance and support.


Overworked Employees: Signs and Prevention - Great People Inside

COVID vaccination documentation update

Brad WalchukUncategorized

We have had questions about the following statement from the Employer on their communications about uploading COVID vaccination forms:

It is critically important to upload your documentation into MacCheckWe encourage you to do this as soon as possible and well in advance of the October 17th deadline.  

We have followed up with Employee-Labour Relations and we can confirm that it is meant to refer to the requirement to upload proof of vaccination vs. a comment on exemption processes.

In terms of exemption requirements, employees who are seeking exemptions are to complete the exemption forms as outlined in the vaccine mandate FAQ *see 4B – this includes non-medical and medical forms (medical forms need to be completed by a physician or RN). Employees can otherwise submit any additional information they felt the University should be made aware of to support assessment of their exemption request. Otherwise HR teams may follow-up if additional information would be helpful for the assessment process.

Please let us know if you have any other questions – staff@cupe3906.org

COVID back-to-work questions

Brad WalchukUncategorized

We’ve been hearing many questions and concerns from members regarding the back-to-campus protocols that are in place (and, in many cases, that are absent). The Union has a number of health and safety related questions in light of the return-to-work in the midst of the pandemic that we posed to Human Resources. The question are below, with the topic bolded, and HR’s answers to the questions are below, in italics.

Among other things, your union remains concern with the lack of distancing in learning spaces (permitted, sadly, by our provincial government) and that fact that McMaster has enforced anything more stringent. We are also concerned by the cleaning schedule of common office spaces that many of our TAs and Sessionals occupy. We believe that the university’s once-per-week cleaning schedule is insufficient.


air filtering-what, if any, updates to air filtering have occurred at McMaster?

Earlier this summer, Facilities Services reviewed campus ventilation systems to inform McMaster’s updated ventilation plan and implementation for the fall. McMaster’s Utilities team is working closely with Environmental & Occupational Health Support Services (EOHSS) to ensure that the university ventilation systems are functioning as designed and that any additional ventilation guidelines from Public Health are implemented.

The government of Ontario has recommended that elementary and secondary learning environments adopt the approach of installing standalone high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter units in buildings without a mechanical ventilation system.  McMaster is updating its ventilation plan for the fall to include this approach.

This is in addition to: assessing and making any required updates to the ventilation systems in buildings on campus; maximizing fresh air and keeping air recirculation to a minimum in all buildings with mechanical ventilation systems; and installing high standard air filters (called MERV-13 air filters) in all buildings where air is recirculated before in-person learning begins.

Here is a full list of buildings on campus noting their ventilation type.

Detailed information is available here: https://covid19.mcmaster.ca/updates-to-the-ventilation-plan/ and here: https://covid19.mcmaster.ca/campus-health-safety/#tab-content-ventilation

cleaning schedule for shared office space-what is the current schedule/frequency of cleaning for classrooms and shared office space (ie/ TA and sessional offices)?

McMaster has a comprehensive cleaning plan in place for the Fall. As part of this plan, Custodial Services will clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces, like door handles and light switches, in high traffic areas with increased frequency. Classrooms and lecture halls will be cleaned nightly and then treated with electrostatic disinfectant spray. Public washrooms will be cleaned twice daily at a minimum. Every evening, common spaces like libraries and eateries will be cleaned. Meeting spaces will be cleaned once per day and offices will be cleaned once per week. Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are provided in classrooms and common spaces for personal use.   

Facility Services cleaning information is available here – https://covid19.mcmaster.ca/campus-cleaning-plan-focuses-on-disinfecting-high-touch-surfaces/

More information is also available here: https://covid19.mcmaster.ca/campus-health-safety/#tab-content-cleaning

PPE (in particular eye shield)-what is the status of freely available PPE for staff, including eye shields?

Masks are available from your department if you do not have one.  Information on mask guidelines are located at this link: https://covid19.mcmaster.ca/campus-health-safety/#tab-content-mask-guidelines

A face shield is not equivalent to a face covering.  If you are working with someone within 2 metres and they are not able to wear a mask due to an exemption, then you should also wear safety glasses along with your mask.   For work purposes those safety glasses would be supplied by the University.

virtual office hours-we are hopeful that, whenever possible, virtual office hours will be permitted and encouraged in an effort to reduce contact in small spaces? Is this something that has been passed on to employment supervisors?

There are virtual office hours for many staff and faculty, and in-person discussions are encouraged by appointment so planning can be undertaken to prevent congregating, and also planning with respect to use of MacCheck and ensuring all parties are cleared to be on-site if meeting in person.

Outdoor spaces have been equipped with additional seating and increased Wi-Fi capacity to provide more opportunities to safely learn, study and collaborate in the fresh air.

percentage of in classes online-on a faculty-specific level, what is the percentage of classes being offered remotely?

As discussed at LMC, there are in person parts of many courses. There are approximately 50% of classes that have in person components for the fall term – either as a requirement or an opportunity – labs are in person, lectures are online for example. It is expected that on campus presence will be increasing into the winter term, staying closely aligned to health and safety direction from the province and public health.

Plexiglass shields-are Plexiglas shields set up in classrooms in front of the primary speaker? If not, what is the process to obtain these?

Plexiglass is not set up in individual classrooms in front of the primary speaker as this is not recommended. All individuals in classrooms are required to wear masks or face coverings.

More information is available here: https://covid19.mcmaster.ca/ask-a-mcmaster-expert-answers-to-your-covid-19-questions/

Availability of sanitizers in campus building- to what degree are sanitizers available in buildings and in individual classrooms?

Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are also available in each classroom.

More information is available here: https://covid19.mcmaster.ca/campus-health-safety/#tab-content-cleaning

Masking- Avenue’s “Back to Mac” training says that level 1 surgical masks are required where physical distancing of 2 meters can’t be maintained. Will the employer be providing these to folks who may need them? How/where will these be obtained?

If physical distancing cannot be maintained in a space that requires it, due to the type of work that is being performed, the surgical masks can be ordered from the FHS Scientific Stores.   If this is part of an employee’s work it would be supplied by University.

Numbers of campus- what is the number of CUPE 3906 members who are expected to come onto campus for work this term?

This is not tracked centrally – each department is supporting employees on in person needs and is expected to vary day to day based on operational requirements.

Capacity- what is the percentage-based capacity for in-person classes?

The province permits instructional spaces without physical distancing; however, at McMaster larger classrooms are being used for in person learning, where available.  Specifically, only 2% of in-person class components have between 51 and 100 students and most are in rooms where the room capacity has been kept under 50% allowing students to spread out.  The University adjusted room assignments in September to have as many classes as possible in larger rooms. Almost 60% of classes with on campus classrooms have enrolments of less than 25.  In addition, lecture halls have been fitted with tools that allow students to attend remotely, even if the class is being offered in person. 

Relocating- is the employer willing to move tutorials out of small basement rooms into larger rooms not in use if members find those rooms to be unsafe? What is the process for this?

Classes / tutorials have been arranged based on available rooms, and the specific teaching and learning needs for students.  The health and safety of each space on campus has been reviewed and confirmed. If there are specific questions regarding health and safety of specific spaces, please advise and they will be reviewed by the EHOSS and facilities teams for response.

Distancing- since physical distancing measures have been reduced, what is the science that supports that change in health and safety controls/protocols?

The University is following direction from the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities with respect to physical distancing requirements – both where they are required, and where they are not required. Please also see additional information above regarding current capacity considerations for the fall term.

Ill-effects of vaccination- should someone get sick from receiving their first or second does of vaccination, what is the employer’s process? What is the employer’s process for long-term illness from the mandated vaccination?

It remains a personal decision whether to get vaccinated and which vaccine may be most appropriate for the individual’s unique circumstances. If employees have questions about what it will mean for them from a health perspective, they should speak with their healthcare provider about their circumstances.

Exemption requests based on human rights grounds, including medical / disability will continue to be reviewed even if submitted beyond the deadline – they may require additional time for consideration given volume of requests received. Information regarding the exemption process can be found at: https://covid19.mcmaster.ca/vaccination-mandate/#tab-content-im-not-fully-vaccinated

Vaccination Record Access- Will front-line (or direct) employment supervisors have access to an employee’s vaccination record or test results as a part of the operation of this policy?

Supervisors do not / will not have access to an employee’s vaccination record or test result as a result of the MacCheck digital tool. They will only see “cleared” or “not cleared” to attend on-site.

Mandatory Vaccination Update

Brad WalchukUncategorized

As you may have read via MacDailyNews or in an email sent by McMaster:

McMaster’s Vaccination Policy requires that all faculty and staff upload their proof of vaccination by October 17th, 2021 at 11:59pm. This requirement applies to everyone, including those who may currently be working remotely. After this date, if you have not provided proof of vaccination or received an approved human rights exemption, you will not be permitted to attend McMaster’s campus or any McMaster-affiliated location. 

If you have submitted a request for exemption from vaccination due to a protected human rights ground, please disregard this message and thank you for your patience. These requests are being thoroughly and confidentially reviewed in the sequence in which they were received. The University will provide further communication to you as soon as possible.

It is critically important to upload your documentation into MacCheckWe encourage you to do this as soon as possible and well in advance of the October 17th deadline.  

The Vaccination Validation Team (part of Human Resources) will continue to review vaccination receipts. Once you have uploaded your information, the status will read as ‘pending’ until your submission is reviewed and validated.  Please do not worry about this pending status – it will not prevent you from receiving clearance to attend a McMaster site when you complete the Daily Check In on MacCheck. The proof of vaccination reviews are being completed as quickly as possible.

If you have questions or require assistance, please let us know.

Wanted: CUPE 3906 seeking additional department stewards

Brad WalchukUncategorized

Stewards hold one of the most important positions in our Union, they are our eyes and ears in every department and are vital to inform both their departments and the rest of the Union about what is going on. We are constantly looking for more motivated people to fulfill this role.

If you want to do this crucial service to your fellow workers, please fill out one of the forms here and send it to us! There is also a small honorarium set in our budget in recognition of the valuable work our Stewards do.

We are also planning to host one of CUPE National’s training for Stewards. If you are a Steward, or if you wish to become one, we highly recommend that you take this free training. You only need to send an email to organizingchair@cupe3906.org expressing your interest!

Lastly, if you want to participate more in the Union, but not as a Steward, we encourage you to check out our other committees and get in touch with their chairs, your help is always appreciated and needed!

New CUPE 3906 Face Masks are in stock

Brad WalchukUncategorized

Newer, better CUPE 3906 face masks have arrived! These ones have adjustable ear loops and a metal nose insert to help keep your glasses from fogging up. Supplies are somewhat limited, so if you’d like to receive one from the union, please fill out the request form here.

Mandatory Vaccination Update

Brad WalchukUncategorized

Our staff has elaborated a great guide for vaccine questions! It can be viewed by clicking on this link: https://cupe3906.org/2021/09/14/mandatory-vaccination-your-rights-and-mandatory-covid-vaccination-policies/ (a PDF version is available for download at the bottom of the page)

In related news, CUPE Ontario recently held a Vaccination Policies Town Hall with experts discussing the appropriate policies, law and medical data. If you were unable to attend or want find out more relevant information, visit: cupe.on.ca/vaccinepolicyinfo/


Brad WalchukUncategorized

The following information is for members of CUPE 3906 Unit 1 (Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants in lieu of Teaching Assistants) holding undergraduate degrees (i.e, “Classification ‘A'”).
Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants (in lieu of TAs) who hold undergraduate degrees are automatically enrolled in CUPE Local 3906’s employee dental plan with single coverage for the entire 2021-2022 academic year.
For more information about the plan, please visit https://cupe3906.org/tas-unit-1/dental-plan/.  We recommend that all Classification ‘A’ TAs and RAs (in lieu) read this important letter about dental coverage: 2021-2022-Dental-Letter-U1-Members.pdf
  • If you are working as a Classification ‘A’ Unit 1 member and would like to enroll in family dental coverage, you may do so until September 27th, 2021, by filling out a family coverage enrollment form available under the “Important Information” and “Forms” heading of our Unit 1 dental website:  https://cupe3906.org/tas-unit-1/dental-plan/   (Please note that you must re-enroll in family dental coverage every academic year if you would like to keep your family coverage active.  Members automatically default to single coverage every year due to McMaster’s payroll system.)
  • If you are working as a Classification ‘Unit 1 member in the fall and already have dental coverage through a parent or spouse and would like to opt-out of the plan, you may do so until September 27th, 2021, by filling out an opt-out form and providing appropriate proof of alternate coverage.  Instructions on opting out, regulations around adequate proof of alternate coverage, and opt-out forms are available under the “Important Information” and “Forms” heading of our Unit 1 dental website:  https://cupe3906.org/tas-unit-1/dental-plan/ (Please note that you must opt-out every academic year if you have other, non-student, coverage and do not wish to keep the CUPE 3906 coverage.  Members automatically default to single coverage every year due to McMaster’s payroll system.)
Please note that you will be automatically opted out of the Graduate Student Association (GSA)’s dental coverage if you work as a Classification ‘A’ TA this academic year.  The timing of this opt-out and the reimbursement for any dental premiums that you pay towards the GSA’s coverage is determined by the GSA.  We recommend that you contact the GSA (macgsa@mcmaster.ca) with questions about their dental premium reimbursements, or about opting out of or enrolling family into their extended health coverage.
Thank you for your attention to these matters.

Employer Vaccination Policies Town Hall

Brad WalchukUncategorized

Many thanks to the thousands of you who joined CUPE Ontario for yesterday’s Vaccination Policies Town Hall.

If you were unable to attend or want to re-watch the webinar, the relevant links can be found below or at http://www.cupe.on.ca/vaccinepolicyinfo/

COVID-19 Vaccination: Workers' Rights | Canadian Union of Public Employees

Mandatory Vaccination: Your rights and mandatory COVID vaccination policies 

Brad WalchukUncategorized

McMaster University has mandated all employees to be vaccinated by September, 2021 (or undergo regular negative testing).


  • Requires a doctor to certify that vaccination is contra-indicated. Reasonable accommodation is then required.


  • If a religion or creed legitimately prevents a person from being vaccinated, they are entitled to reasonable accommodation.


  • Are not infringed in disclosing vaccination status as long as record of employee vaccination is kept confidential and info used just for this purpose

Must the employer accommodate people with a medical or religious reason not to be vaccinated?

What if I require an accommodation?

Can you be fired if you will not be vaccinated and do not have a medical or religious objection? 

  • We do not know. The law here is not certain. Arbitrators in flu vaccination cases have emphasized that the policies they upheld as reasonable did not result in discipline. This suggests that it is important for a policy to be non-disciplinary to be reasonable.
  • A policy that terminates an employee for non-vaccination would be very different. There is a good argument that this type of policy would not be reasonable because it does not adequately respect the workers’ right to choose what medical treatment to undertake.
  • There is, however, a risk that an arbitrator would view COVID as being so serious to the well-being of patients and staff that it would justify this type of policy.
  • Members in workplaces with policies that threaten termination should understand that, if they refuse to become vaccinated, the employer might terminate them.
  • If this happens, and if the union grieves the termination, it cannot guarantee a particular outcome.

Consequences of choosing not to be vaccinated without a medical or religious exemption

  • McMaster’s COVID vaccination policy must be assessed individually to determine if it is reasonable. However, arbitrators have upheld influenza vaccinepolicies that have placed unvaccinated workers on modified job duties that reduce their interactions with patients or other workers, as well as policies that place unvaccinated workers on unpaid leaves of absence for the duration of outbreaks.
  • It is important to recognize that the COVID pandemic is not just another flu season. Arbitrators will view COVID as being more serious and may be willing to accept even more significant consequences for workers as “reasonable”.
  • For example, in flu vaccine cases, unpaid leaves of absence tended to last only for a relatively short period of time (i.e. until a flu outbreak in the workplace resolved).
  • In the context of the COVID pandemic, arbitrators may accept that even if there is no outbreak in the workplace, workers may be placed on unpaid leaves of absence. Those leaves of absence may be for long periods of time, as there is no clear “end” in sight to the COVID pandemic.

Where can I find more information?

What is CUPE’s opinion?

  • We believe that the benefits of vaccines clearly outweigh any adverse event risks.
  • CUPE’s Health and Safety Branch strongly recommends vaccination to our members in consultation with their own medical providers or a practitioner reached through a provincial health care line.
  • We will continue to support the benefits of vaccination until such time as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) changes their vaccine guidance.
  • CUPE’s Health and Safety Branch has previously released vaccine guidance related to the balancing of CUPE members’ individual rights, health and safety, the recognition of public health information and the interest of the community.

I still have questions….

Please contact your CUPE Local 3906 representatives – either by emailing staff@cupe3906.orghealthandsafety@cupe3906.org or president@cupe3906.org

A PDF version of this page can be accessed here.