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.

Unsheltered: The Zine

Brad WalchukUncategorized

CUPE Local 3906 was happy to provide support to help offset the costs of producing Unsheltered: The Zine. UNSHELTERED the zine is a community art project featuring the stories of unhoused women and gender-diverse folks living outside of Hamilton’s shelter system. The September 2021 issue features art from folks who currently and/or previously sleep rough, live in encampments, or access YWCA’s Transitional Living Program(TLP), Carole Anne’s Place (CAP),and/or Willow’s Place (WP). Each artist was asked to create apiece of art that represents their experience being unhoused in Hamilton. A full PDF version of Unsheltered is available here.

Update regarding Unit 1 Paid Training Program

Brad WalchukUncategorized

Dear TAs and RAs (in lieu),

In November 2019, your union secured 5 hours of paid training through collective bargaining. This could not have been secured without the support of the membership. The training program was first developed over this past summer and was implemented at the start of this term. When it was negotiated, the Union, in good faith, was led to believe that that training program would apply to all members of Unit 1, and we believe that the language in the Collective Agreement reflects this.

Unfortunately, McMaster does not seem to agree. As some of you may know, returning TAs/RAs (in lieu) in the Faculty of Engineering are being offered only 2 hours of paid training. Your Union believes this to be a clear violation of the Collective Agreement and strips people of access to 3 paid hours to which they are entitled under the newly established training program. As a result, CUPE has filed a policy grievance against McMaster to ensure that all Unit 1 members have access to 5 paid hours of training under the newly established program.
We will provide further updates as we are able.

Mandatory Vaccination- Accommodations and Exemptions Update

Brad WalchukUncategorized

We have another update from the Employer regarding the process for requesting exemptions/accommodations around the vaccination mandate.

McMaster has released their finalized version of the policy that mandates vaccinations for students and employees:
Vaccination Policy – COVID-19 Requirements for Employees and Students: https://hr.mcmaster.ca/resources/covid-19-vaccination-policy/

The Employer has also directed us to the following FAQ that has a section dedicated to the process of requesting accommodations/exemptions:

 In terms of the exemption process, there is a section online in the FAQs dedicated to how to seek an exemption – this includes a link to the appropriate forms and process (see Step 4B): https://covid19.mcmaster.ca/vaccination-mandate/#tab-content-im-not-fully-vaccinated.

Please note that the employer has a September 19th deadline for submitting an exemption request. We recommend you make the request prior to the 19th, but if for some reason you cannot, please let us know. We also strongly recommend that you have a look at the FAQ (specifically secton “4B”) about making an accommodation request.  If you have any trouble making the request, please feel free to let us know and we can follow-up. You will be notified of the employer’s decision regarding the approval of the exemption or accommodation.
If you have questions about being vaccinated against COVID-19, our national union has developed the following helpful FAQ: https://cupe.ca/sites/cupe/files/faq_vaccines_covid19_en_0.pdf
If you are not satisfied with that decision, please let us know and we can discuss options with you.
The legal landscape is rapidly evolving, but we would like to direct your attention to this page from CUPE: https://cupe.ca/covid-19-vaccination-workers-rights

Wanted: 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! 

CUPE 3906 Bargaining Bulletin #3

Brad WalchukUncategorized

HAMILTON, ON — AUGUST 30th, 2021

CUPE 3906’s Unit 2 Bargaining Team met again with our counterparts from the McMaster University Administration for three days of negotiations between August 23rd and August 27th, 2021.

Progress at the table was slow, but the Parties arrived at some agreement in administrative and procedural areas such as Information, the Grievance Procedure, and Equal Pay. Unfortunately, the Employer continued to refuse to provide meaningful gains to your priority areas, including Job Security, Pensions, and Professional Supports.

CUPE 3906’s team presented our first full monetary pass and was working on a counter to the Employer’s response.  The parties left the table on Friday evening (August 27th), with plans to continue negotiations, although no dates have been set.

Although the Employer has not taken an aggressive stance with outright concessions this round, they do not seem to be very receptive to improvements in member priority areas, and see the existing agreement as acceptable for the next three years.  We disagree. The Employer is also firm on fulfilling its legal obligations to restrict wages and compensation for the next two years under the Conservative’s infamous Bill 124.  CUPE is one of several Unions signed on to a constitutional challenge of the legislation, which limits the rights of Public Sector workers to bargain in a free and collective manner.  As CUPE Ontario President, Fred Hahn, has pointed out, the legislation makes it impossible for front-line Public Sector workers to keep up with inflation, which is currently over 3%.

“It’s very frustrating to be forced to work within the imposed legislative restrictions while facing the Employer’s seeming lack of interest to make improvements even to non-monetary language that would make the lives of some of its most precarious employees less stressful,” says Mary Ellen Campbell, CUPE 3906 staff.  “Negotiations are the only time when we can make secure gains for our members that are guaranteed under the Collective Agreement, and we can’t afford to wait another three years to make improvements.”

“Some of our proposals, including a targeted pension benefit, actually require very little effort or cost on the part of the Employer, but offer a world of difference to our members, some of whom have been working for McMaster University for 20 or even 30 years or more with nothing to show for retirement,” says Sharoni Mitra, CUPE 3906 President.  “McMaster likes to claim that it treats its employees equally, but even this ask, which is much less than what most of our counterparts across the table enjoy, seems to have no traction with them.”

CUPE 3906’s team will solicit dates to continue negotiations with the Employer into the fall term.  We will continue to update members on our progress, and encourage you, the members, to show your support for your elected bargaining team by joining our bargaining support committee, following our progress and activities on email and social media, and keeping in touch with comments and questions by emailing mobilizer@cupe3906.orgIt’s your contract!

Our next Bargaining Support Committee Meeting will be scheduled soon- an email with the date/time will follow.

Sessional Faculty, Hourly Rated Sessional Music Faculty, and MELD Sessional Faculty working at McMaster University comprise CUPE 3906’s Unit 2. The current collective agreement expires on August 31.

A PDF version of this update can be found here..

Updates from Your Union

Brad WalchukUncategorized

Below are a few useful updates and reminders from your Union. Specifically, this mailer concerns the following:

(1) General Membership Meeting: August 31
(2) Vacant positions
(3) Sessional Faculty is bargaining with the employer!
(4) Reminder: Sign our Petition for a Safe and Equitable Return to Campus!
(5) “Gardening for Wellness” Program
(6) Benefits: Did you know? 

General Membership Meeting: August 31

CUPE 3906’s next General Membership Meeting will be held on Tuesday, August 31, from 12 PM to 2 PM Eastern Time. Any members wishing to present pre-written motions should provide theirs via email to president@cupe3906.org by Tuesday, July 27.As with recent virtual GMMs, pre-registration will be required in order to attend this meeting. Please note that you must register with your McMaster email address no later than 10 AM the day of the GMM. This is the only way we can confirm your membership prior to the meeting. Any registration requests made from non-McMaster email addresses will be denied.

Register in advance for the GMM HERE. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Vacant positions

We have currently 2 vacant positions open to all our members. Both positions come with a honorarium, set in our annual budget. The first one is in the Bylaws Committee, which is the committee charged with overseeing, changing, and updating the Local’s Bylaws. Please contact our Bylaws Committee Chair, Maxwell Lightstone, if you’d like to participate!

The second position is as Co-Chair of the Organizing Committee. An election will take place at the next Committee meeting. If you’re interested in running for the position or simply in mobilizing our members in support of our Union’s goals and the Labour Movement in general, please send an email to our Organizing Committee Co-Chair, Wouter van den Berg, and he’ll be happy to assist you.

Sessional Faculty is bargaining with the employer!

The Sessional Faculty Bargaining Team is bargaining with the employer their new Collective Agreement. The membership has identified 6 priorities to be advanced in the new agreement:

  • Respect, Equity, and Inclusion;
  • Compensation;
  • Job Security;
  • Health and Wellbeing;
  • Workload;
  • Professional Support and Training.

We have been asking our Sessional Faculty members to tell us what these priorities mean to them and what impact it has on their work and lives. For this week, we’d like to share with you this quote from our Member, Emily Cowall, on why it matters that Sessionals have access to Professional Supports and Paid Training:

You can keep yourself up to date with our bargaining by visiting our bettermac.ca website. Now more than ever Sessionals need our support. If you can, help us share their messages and come to the Bargaining Support Committee meetings for us to prepare a strong campaign and get our message across to management. It’s time for a #BetterMac.

Reminder: Sign our Petition for a Safe and Equitable Return to Campus!

You might have seen the email from McMaster alerting us that a person who tested positive for COVID-19 had been on campus previously and that the university is taking measures to address the health risks posed by this case. Cases like these are why our local is continuing to advocate for a safe return to campus and why it is frustrating that McMaster has refused to adopt all of our return to campus priorities. If they truly want to stop the risk of outbreaks from happening in the future we need smaller class sizes, we need social distancing measures in small classrooms, we need a clear procedure for what to do if a student refuses to wear a mask. 

If you haven’t done it yet, please take a minute to sign our petition for a safe and fair return to campus for all TAshttps://www.change.org/p/mcmaster-university-cupe-3906-unit-1-return-to-campus-priorities

Your support is needed if we are to guarantee a safe return to campus that can also respect us and the vital work we do for the university to be able to carry out its mission. It’s time for the university to finally start paying attention to our needs too, all of us workers deserve safe and fair working conditions!

In line with our demands, please let us know if you are being pressured into working offline. It is our position that all workers and students must have a choice on whether to return to in person learning or not. The safety of our members is not negotiable.

“Gardening for Wellness” Program

All students are welcome to apply to the “Gardening for Wellness” Program launched by the GSA and CUPE 3906 in partnership with Hamilton Victory Gardens! Apply and go to spend enjoyable time full of various exciting gardening activities, while socializing with other participants! Students experiencing food insecurity may discuss with the coordinator about bringing home seasonal produce. More info. in the application form here.

Questions? Contact your International Officer, Sarah.

Benefits: Did you know?

Did you know? You can submit medical expenses to the Health Care Spending Account! You can be reimbursed by $300 per academic year (Sept 1st-Aug 31st) for any medical (health and dental) expenses considered eligible by the Canada Revenue Agency for tax purposes.

Any Unit 3 (Postdocs) Member can apply while employed as a Unit 3 Member at McMaster. To file a claim, fill out a claim form available at https://cupe3906.org/postdocs-unit-3/post-doc-health-spending-account/ Email the completed, signed form with a scan of your receipts (and other supporting documentation where required) to claims@prosure-group.com.

You can claim expense(s) for a spouse and/or dependent(s) from this account. These expenses count towards your individual $300 annual cap.

More information can be found at: https://cupe3906.org/postdocs-unit-3/post-doc-health-spending-account/

Stay safe and take care, everyone.

In solidarity,

The CUPE 3906 Executive Committee


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.