Abeyance -to defer hearing a grievance for a specific period of time until a legal decision has been made on the same issue.

Arbitrary -not showing consistency. Dealing with one matter one way then dealing with the same circumstance totally different next time.

Arbitration -the method of settling employment disputes through recourse to an impartial party from the Labour Board, whose decision is final and binding.

Arbitrator –the impartial third party appointed through the Labour Board that the parties submit their grievances to for a decision (award). This person is usually selected by mutual consent.

Bargaining Agent -the Union that named as the exclusive representative for all the people covered, or who will be covered by the agreement.

Bargaining Bulletin –a newsletter sent to members of the bargaining unit during negotiations to keep them up-to-date about the progression of bargaining. Bulletins are distributed by email, local website and on occasion in paper format.

Bargaining Committee or Bargaining Team –both the Local and the Employer have Bargaining Committees. The Employer appoints theirs, while the Union’s team is elected by the membership at a General Membership Meeting. The Union’s elected committee will be at the bargaining table and actively involved in negotiating a contract.

Bargaining Support Committee –a committee made up of members of the Local who assists the bargaining committee primarily through research, member mobilization and education. Members of the Bargaining Support Committee do not sit at the table for negotiations.

Bargaining Survey –a questionnaire sent out by the Local to all members of the bargaining unit to assist in the drafting of bargaining proposals. It is not an unbiased “scientific” survey, but rather aims to both inform and garner information from members.

Bargaining Unit –all of those employees represented by the bargaining agent whether they are members of the Union or not. CUPE 3906 is split into three bargaining units, each with their own collective agreement:

  • Unit 1 – Teaching and Research Assistants (in lieu of a TAship)
  • Unit 2 – Sessional and Sessional Music Faculty
  • Unit 3 – Post doctoral Fellows

Bargaining Unit Member -all bargaining unit members are members of the Union.

Caucus –an informal meeting of the bargaining team, away from the bargaining table, to discuss, clarify, or solidify positions on issues.

Check – off -payroll deduction of dues – the practice whereby the employer deducts union dues from employee pay cheques and remits these funds to the union.

Collective Agreement, Agreement, Contract –a legally-binding written contract, arrived at through the process of negotiation, which covers the employee’s wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment. A written agreement between the Union and the Employer is for a definite term, defining conditions of employment (wages, hours, benefits, working conditions, etc.) rights of employees and the processes for resolving disputes or handling issues that arise during the term of the agreement.

Collective Bargaining –a process where the Union and Employer, make offers and counter-offers back and forth regarding their employment relationship, for the purpose of making a mutually acceptable agreement, and the execution of a written document.

Competitive Clause -in the selection section of the Collective Agreement. Sets out terms that the employer will use to decide on applicants.

Concessions –this is an attempt by the Employer to reduce or eliminate benefits and/or other conditions of employment which heretofore have existed.

Conciliation –a stage in negotiations that involves a neutral third party from the Ministry of Labour who attempts to assist the parties in resolving their dispute by suggesting possible areas of compromise, bringing a different point of view, clarifying issues and using many other techniques designed to bring the parties closer together and narrow the disagreement. The function of mediation is to assist the parties by being creative and innovative in finding areas of agreement and compromise to reach final resolution of an impasse.

Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) –raising or lowering salaries in accordance with cost of living as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

Duty of Fair Representation –unions have an obligation in handling grievances in a manner that is not arbitrary, discriminatory, or in bad faith.

Employer –see management.

Estoppel -a long running practice that is acknowledged by both parties that one party is now trying to change to the determent of the other party.

Exclusive Negotiation Rights -the right and obligation of Union to negotiate collectively for all employees, including non-members, in the Unit.

Final Offer –under the Labour Relations Act, the Employer can force a vote of the collective agreement to the membership on their “final offer,” however the Employer can only do so once.

General Membership Meeting (GMM) -a democratic forum for union members of CUPE 3906 and is the highest decision-making body of the Local.

Grievance -there are four kinds of grievances that can be filed, individual, group, policy and union grievances. The most common kind of grievance is an individual grievance.

  • Individual Grievances – Individual grievances relate to the interpretation or application of a collective agreement or arbitral award or any matter affecting the terms and conditions of a specific individual’s employment, such as disciplinary action, demotion, termination, suspension or financial penalty.
  • Group Grievance – A group grievance may be presented when two or more employees in a single department or agency are similarly affected by the interpretation or application of a collective agreement or arbitral award. Employees are able to opt into a group grievance referred by their bargaining agent. Employees may decide later that they no longer wish to participate in the group grievance and opt out.
  • Policy Grievance – A policy grievance relates to the interpretation or application of a collective agreement or an arbitral award. Either the bargaining agent or the employer can refer a policy grievance.
  • Union Grievance – This grievance involves the issue where the union’s rights have been violated. The grievance would be from the union itself. An example of this is whereby the employer did not deduct union dues.

Grievance Procedure –typically a formal meeting, specified in the collective agreement, which provides for step meetings that allows for discussions at progressive higher levels of authority of the Employer, usually culminating in arbitration if necessary.

Hearsay Evidence -evidence supply by a 3rd party that was not present for the initial conversation or act.

Impasse –a point reached by in the process of bargaining by both parties agree that they can go no further in the process of proposal or counter- proposal. The parties best offers are offers are “on the table,” none of which are acceptable to the other party, bringing them to a point of impasse.

Interest Arbitration –a process whereby the parties submit unresolved contract to an impartial third party who will render a final and binding decision on the terms and conditions of a collective agreement.

Just Cause (or cause of discipline) –the Employer is responsible to establish or carry the burned of proof when disciplining an employee.

Local –the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), also referred to as the National, is split up by workplace into Locals. Locals are democratic units of workers within a given workplace that share the same Employer. We are CUPE Local 3906, representing three bargaining units of academic workers at McMaster University.

Lockout –when management locks workers out of their workplace and refuses to allow workers to work as a punitive measure for refusing to accept a bad offer in bargaining.

Last Chance Agreement -put in place by the employer and agreed to by the Union outline and giving the member one last opportunity to improve performance or actions.

Management –management refers to those who are part of the Employer, McMaster University, charged with overseeing labour-relations. This can refer to employment supervisors, chairs, deans, senior administration, as well as the Employee and Labour Relations Department.

Managements Rights Clause -a provision in the collective agreement that lays out areas where the employer retains discretion or control.

Mediation –involvement in a contract negotiations dispute of a neutral third party (often the same person that acted as the conciliator) from the Ministry of Labour who attempts to assist the parties in resolving their dispute by suggesting possible areas of compromise, bringing a different point of view, clarifying issues and using many other techniques designed to bring the parties closer together and narrow the disagreement.  The function of mediation is to assist the parties by being creative and innovative in finding areas of agreement and compromise to reach final resolution of an impasse. This is the stage in the bargaining process immediately preceding a strike/lockout deadline set out by the No-Board Report.

Negotiations –the process by which the bargaining team bargain to set wages, hours, terms and conditions of employment, and the processes for handling grievances.

Negotiation Rights (Bargaining Rights) –legally recognized right to represent employees in negotiations with employers.

No Board Report -a report filed by the conciliator if the process of conciliation fails. Filing the report triggers a 17  day cooling off period before a strike/lockout deadline after the report is filed. The conciliator has up to 4 days to formally issue the report.

Ontario Labour Relations Act –the provincial legislation that governs the process of bargaining, as well as other rules governing unions and the administration of collective agreements.

Partial Sessional Faculty Appointment –where one person is hired as a Sessional Faculty to co-teach one offering/section of one course with a non-Sessional instructor (i.e. Faculty member, retired faculty, etc.).

Past Practice –a long established practice of a recurring situation over a substantial period of time which has been recognized by both parties.

Ratification -the voting process for or against the new contract. The voting process by bargaining unit members constitutes the ratification of the collective agreement. A new contract can only be signed and become effective following the ratification of both parties.

Ratification Vote –when the committee feels it has reached an agreement with management that they feel that they can bring it back to the membership, a Special General Membership Meeting (SGMM) is called to discuss and initiate the ratification vote that takes place over two days. If the ratification vote is affirmative the new collective agreement comes into effect. If the members turn down the agreement the bargaining committee goes back to the table. Under the Labour Relations Act, the Employer can force a vote to the membership on their “final offer,” however the Employer can only do so once.

Recognition –employer acceptance of the Union as authorized to negotiate for a specific group of employees.

Recognition Clause -the section of the Collective Agreement that stipulates who is in and out of the Local Bargaining Unit.

Red-Circling -freezing a members pay at its current level when they change job classifications until the new job classification rate catches up to their current one.

Reopening Clause –a stipulation within a multi-year contract which provides and allows for negotiations to be periodically reopened on some specifically stated items or provisions. Such a clause in a collective agreement states the time or circumstances under which negotiations can be requested prior to the expiration of contract.

Side Bar –short for side-bargaining. These are “off-the record” informal discussions between representatives of the parties to seek a non-binding position on issues – away from the bargaining table. The process is exploratory and does not change table positions on bargaining issues. The sidebars are usually conducted between chief negotiators/spokespersons.

Solidarity –the fundamental principle of trade-unionism best exemplified by the slogan” an injury to one is an injury to all.” In practice this means that all members of the union-movement agree to help one another in their struggles for fair wages, safe workplaces, better benefits and human rights. Solidarity extends beyond the union-movement to other groups struggling for human rights and social justice.

Special General Membership Meeting (SGMM) –a general membership meeting that is called for a specific purpose, and only for that purpose. Typically for a presentation and debate preceding a ratification vote.

Specialty Sessional Faculty Appointment –where one person is hired as a Sessional Faculty to teach one offering/section of one course, where that course is not a 3 or 6 unit course.  Note:  There are many 1, 2, 4 and 5 unit undergraduate courses in Engineering and some in Science for which this applies.  As well, there are graduate quarter courses that run for 6 weeks and are considered equivalent to 1.5 units of work.

Split Sessional Faculty Appointments -where two or more people are hired as Sessional Faculty to teach one offering/section of one course.

Strike Pay –financial assistance provided to striking or locked-out workers through our Union. Strike pay is $40.00 per day and for four hours of strike related duties – typically picket line duties, to a weekly maximum of $200.00. Strike pay commences on the 10th day of a strike or lockout.

Strike –a collective action taken by all workers in a bargaining unit to put pressure on the Employer to take their concerns seriously by withdrawing all or some of their labour.

Strike Mandate Vote –a crucial tool for successful bargaining, an affirmative vote puts the right to call a strike (or other job action) in the hands of the elected bargaining committee. An affirmative strike mandate vote sends a clear message to the Employer that the members stand behind the bargaining committee and the proposals that the Union put forward.  This is not a vote for a strike and it does not necessarily mean that there will be a strike. Strike mandate votes almost never fail, and have never failed in CUPE 3906 history.

Tentative Agreement –the point in the collective bargaining process where all issues have been resolved between the parties and the tentative agreement is waiting to be ratified by the parties. A tentative agreement can also refer to individual bargaining proposals to which there have been mutual agreement. The parties often have these tentative agreement signed off on. The process of individually agreeing to bargaining issues is acknowledged by both parties that the issue(s) which has been tentatively agreed is “taken off the table” and will not return later in the bargaining process.

Term -the negotiated length of the collective agreement that the agreement will remain enforced.

Unfair Labour Practice (ULP) -employer or employee activities that are prohibited by the Ontario Labour Relations Act. Charges of ULP’s can be filed by unions, individuals or employers. The Ontario Labour Relations Board investigates ULP charges and has the authority to order a stop to the activity.

Union –refers to the Canadian Union of Public Employees as a whole. CUPE represents over 600,000 public-sector workers coast-to-coast, is Canada’s largest union, and has sectors that include municipalities, school boards, health care, social services and universities. We are Local 3906 of CUPE, representing three academic units at McMaster University. As a member of the National Union, our local helps elect officials and is serviced by Staff Representatives, departments such as communications, research and education. CUPE prides itself on its commitment to union democracy and local autonomy.

Union Member –all bargaining unit members are members of the Union. Unlike other unions, where individuals have to swear an oath to “join the union,” in CUPE 3906 you are automatically a union member by virtue of your employment as a member of the bargaining unit.

Work Stoppage –a temporary halt to work, initiated by workers or employers, in the form of a strike or lockout.


CAUT – Canadian Association of University Teachers

Founded in 1951, CAUT is the national voice for academic staff. Today, representing 65,000 teachers, librarians, researchers and other academic professionals and general staff, CAUT is an outspoken defender of academic freedom and works actively in the public interest to improve the quality and accessibility of post-secondary education in Canada. CAUT has always counted notable figures among its members. Former CAUT presidents and activists include past Supreme Court Chief Justice Bora Laskin, MPs Pauline Jewett and Howard McCurdy, and Manitoba Premier Howard Pawley.

CLC – Canadian Labour Congress

The Canadian Labour Congress is the largest democratic and popular organization in Canada with over three million members. The Canadian Labour Congress brings together Canada’s national and international unions, the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 130 district labour councils.

CUPE – Canadian Union of Public Employees

With 600 000 members across Canada, CUPE is the largest Canadian Union that represents workers in health care, education, municipalities, libraries, universities, social services, public utilities, transportation, emergency services and airlines.

CUPE O – Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario

CUPE Ontario is the political wing of the Canadian Union of Public Employees—Canada’s largest union—in the country’s most populated province.

With more than 200,000 members, CUPE Ontario is a formidable political voice. We campaign at the provincial level for legislative, policy and political change on issues affecting public services and our dedicated members who deliver them. We are proud to partner with labour and community groups to build strong communities and the kind of province that we all want.

GSA – Graduate Student Association

HDLC – Hamilton District Labour Council

An assembly of delegates elected by local union affiliates of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). An executive council, elected by the delegates for a two-year term, helps the labour council to shape its agenda and then implement its decisions. Committees, also elected, assist the executive by reviewing issues, hearing delegations, proposing actions and organizing events, e.g. the annual Labour Day Parade.

An umbrella group that brings together local unions so that collectively we can better represent our members, defend free collective bargaining, assist the unorganized and generally improve the quality of life in our city.

LMC – Labour Management Committee

MUFA – McMaster University Faculty Association

MSU – McMaster Student Union

MUSC – McMaster Student Union Center

OCUFA – Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations is the voice of 15,000 university faculty and academic librarians across Ontario. We seek to maintain and enhance the quality of our province’s higher education system, and to advance the professional and economic interests of our members.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents its 26 member faculty associations through on-campus support and public advocacy. We provide research and logistical services to support collective bargaining and grievance management at individual universities. OCUFA also takes the needs and concerns of our members directly to Government, other higher education stakeholders, the media, and the citizens of Ontario. We do this through public campaigns, publications, and direct meetings with politicians and policymakers.