CUPE 3906 now hiring for the position of Member Mobilizer Book-Off (Casual)


Dear Members,

As you may already know, our Unit 2 members (Sessional Instructors, Hourly-Rated Sessional Music Faculty, and MELD Sessional Instructors) are entering collective bargaining this summer, with their contract expiring on August 31st.

With every round of collective bargaining comes the need for member mobilization, which requires a lot of additional work extending outreach to members and connecting with them one-to-one, in small groups, and in larger settings. In the past, the local has used external hires to take on a lot of this work. This year, we would like to first extend the opportunity to our members.

This position will be treated as a book-off, meaning it will be compensated at the rate of a graduate TA appointment ($44.07 per hour). Accordingly, the position will come with a general expectation of approximately 10hrs/week of work, understanding that this will fluctuate from week-to-week based on where we are in the bargaining process. Also, members may be eligible to be booked off from their regular employment duties where such Collective Agreement provisions apply. We expect the contract to end at the time that members ratify a new agreement.

This book-off will be open only to CUPE 3906 Members. Experience as a Unit 2 member (or sessional faculty elsewhere) will be considered an asset, though not a requirement. Unit 1 members who hold TA/RA in lieu contracts simultaneously with this one may be able to substitute this contract for their Unit 1 work.

Other relevant experience in bargaining, mobilizing/organizing, and outreach would be valuable for this position. Under the current circumstances, a willingness and ability to conduct telephone canvassing and electronic outreach (including via Zoom, Skype, or equivalent) is specifically needed.

For a complete description of the position and its duties, as well as instructions on how to apply, click here.

In solidarity,

The CUPE 3906 Executive Committee

Online teaching as Sessional Faculty in the context of COVID-19

Brad WalchukUncategorized

As you have likely heard by now, the spring semester will be online, and, barring some miraculous change in the next week or so, so too will the summer semester. The start dates for each will remain the same. We’ve had many productive discussions with the employer and believe that those who have already been hired will be given every opportunity to succeed and teach. What does this mean for sessionals?

The employer is aware that “The Employer will not, without training, require an employee to use technological skills other than those agreed to at the time of hiring” (Article 19.04 in your Collective Agreement). This bodes especially well folks who have already been appointed to a course that was not advertised as being online. The employer is also aware that “When an employee is required to attend or otherwise completes mandatory employment related training that has not been identified in the Letter of Appointment, compensation for such training shall be paid at the “Post Contract Work” rate, in accordance with Article 15.05(a)” (19.03b). The current rate of this training is $66.70 per hour.
All subsequent postings for the spring/summer will reference the course being online and that need to complete training. If such training is required and advertised, it is not compensated at the additional rate.
It’s unclear how much time will be allocated, but training is being done through MacPherson, and their training is both helpful and thorough in our experience. There is also some flexibility in terms of how technology can be incorporated (i.e. WebEx, Zoom, Echo360, A2L etc). The employer recognizes that these classes being housed online is both temporary and represents a quick turnaround in terms of preparation and execution. The expectation is that you’re simply to take your material and put in online – a sort of virtual classroom, if you will. This is different from, and much less labour intensive than, creating and developing a fully online class. Further, you will not need to create additional digital learning to supplement the existing material you have.
People who have been offered work to teach in the spring/summer and were unaware that the work would be online and elected to decline it due to the class now being online will be offered a $1000 cancellation fee. There is language in our Collective Agreement (Article 12.13) that speaks to your seniority and entitlement to First Consideration appointments in the event that you choose to decline an appointment.  Please contact us if you have any questions about your seniority and entitlement to future courses if you choose to decline an appointment.
Everyone teaching in the summer/spring online should also be provided a T2200. (Article 16.07). This also applies to ALL U2 members this term and will give a tax break for office usage, but should also apply to internet, etc. These are not due until Feb 28, 2021 (as they’re for the 2020 tax year). This is backburner stuff, but important that we’ve clarified.
The employer is also aware of Article 13.01, which states that “Best efforts will be made to provide reasonable access to the use of other facilities, services and equipment related to members’ teaching duties and responsibilities (e.g. McMaster University email, photocopying, audio/visual equipment, telephone, private/secure meeting locations) […] instructional materials related to the employee’s instructional responsibilities will be available on the same basis as faculty members in the academic unit.” These will need to be discussed with department chairs first to get an agreement on what is reasonable, and we can intervene if things aren’t to the members satisfaction. There seems to be a recognition that items such as a webcam, a microphone, secure high speed internet, etc. are necessities that you will need to be provided with at no cost. If you require such equipment/tools, please identify your needs to your supervisor (Department or Area Chair) as soon as possible.  Speaking to your supervisor is the correct and appropriate process for making such requests.  Should your department not make these available for you in a timely matter, please let us know.
On a related note, if you incurred any additional expenses related to your Winter 2020 course going online, please let us know as soon as possible as we believe that you are entitled to reimbursement. Examples would include webcams, microphones, computers, secure high speed internet, and other related expenses.
Finally, the wonderful staff at the Campus Bookstore have let us know they are here to help course instructors in this time of transition. In that regard, they have compiled a list of digital resources and other supports that you may want to access through their store while moving your course(s) online. You can find the list attached to this email.
If you have any additional questions about the spring/summer semester, please let us know by emailing
In solidarity,
The CUPE 3906 Executive Committee


CERB and EI Information & Resources


During this time of increasing uncertainty, many of you will be looking toward government income support – most notably, the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and Employment Insurance (EI). The CERB is a newly announced program and it seems to be evolving in real time. We’ve received many inquires about accessing these programs and are trying to provide some insight as best as we can. Unfortunately, due to the dynamic nature of these programs and further amendments that are likely to occur, we do not have as many definitive answers as we’d like; however, our National Union has created this helpful CERB Q&A that may answer some common questions.

In short, we would encourage all members to apply to the CERB/EI as soon as your income ends, whether by virtue of the semester coming to an end or by layoff. If in doubt, apply! The worst thing that will happen is that you will be informed you did not meet the eligibility criteria.

At first glance, unfortunately, it appears that most TAs/RAs/Tutors and Sessional Faculty will not be eligible for the CERB as it requires COVID-related job loss. General end-of-semester contract endings are not COVID related. Unfortunately, the CERB does not at this point extend to a lack of jobs for folks over the summer, even if the job scarcity is COVID-related. In short, it seems that many students will be left out of any sort of economic relief (for the time being at least), though we are hopeful that will change. We would encourage you to take a few moments to contact the Prime Minister at and tell him to do the right thing by students who are being hammered by the COVID-19 crisis.

The CERB does, however, cover those who are sick or quarantined, looking after kids or other family members, or looking after someone that is sick or quarantined. The CERB does not require a medical certificate for this type of access.

The CERB will apply to postdocs who are laid off due to COVID-19. If this is the case for you personally, please contact us ASAP and apply for the CERB.

If you have lost employment due to COVID elsewhere, but are still employed at McMaster, you are likely not currently eligible for the CERB, but you should be as soon as your income at McMaster ends. The final pay of the semester is April 17th.

April 17th represents what Service Canada refers to as an ‘interruption of earnings’  and should be the date you list on your EI application as the last pay date (not the date for which you were last paid). The ‘day for which you were last paid’  and your ‘last day worked’  should be listed as April 18th.  We would encourage all members who may utilize Employment Insurance at any point over the spring/summer semesters to apply, even if you are employed during the Winter term.

The first pay in the Spring term, for those of you who are employed, will be on May 22nd and the first day of work will be May 3rd. This means you should be able to collect EI from April 19th to May 2nd, if you have enough insurable hours. For information on EI, click here. If you have already served a withholding period in the past 52 weeks, you will be able to collect EI as of April 19th. If you have not served a withholding period, you can serve one week over the holidays and should be able to collect EI as of April 26th.

In certain instances, it is possible to both work and collect EI (with some clawbacks) if the amount of work have in the winter has dropped substantially from the work you had during the fall term. More information is available here.

The employer will upload your ROE automatically to Service Canada over the week of April 20th. You can apply for EI as of April 19th.

If you have any additional questions regarding CERB/EI, please let us know. We will do all that we can to help you navigate through the process.

Postdoctoral Support Fund- Update

Brad WalchukUncategorized

Your Union has a quick update on the Postdoctoral Support Fund, the application for which can be accessed here.

We’ve been told by Employee/Labour Relations to relay the following information to our members:

Effective immediately, applicants do not need to complete the Estimated Expenses and Estimated Income table in the application form. Members must submit receipts or quotes for any expenses that they are submitting for reimbursement from the fund.”

For now, the actual application form looks the same as above, but you needn’t complete the table that asks for estimated expenses and income. A new form will be made available soon, and we will send it as soon as we have it.

Please also note that in addition to one time, unexpected emergencies, we have expanded the fund to cover family UHIP costs and child care expenses.

Relatedly, if you have a child in public schools or daycare centres located in public schools, you can apply for funding from any recent strike days here.

* * *
We thank everyone for their patience as we navigate these unprecedented circumstances together. As a reminder, we have compiled a list of COVID-19-related resources specific to CUPE 3906 members here.  McMaster has also been providing frequent updates as the situation evolves, found here.

In solidarity,

The CUPE 3906 Executive Committee

COVID-19 Resources & Information


For CUPE 3906 Members


** April 22nd CERB Update**


Union Business (Office Closure / Benefits claims, etc.)

Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) & EI Info and Resources

UNIT 1 (TA/RA in lieu) Work

UNIT 2 (Sessional Instructor) Work

MELD Sessional Instructor Work

UNIT 3 (Postdoctoral Fellow) Work

McMaster University’s CUPE Member FAQ Page

A Compelling Essay about Putting your Courses Online

For CUPE & Non-CUPE Members

Accessing Aid & Leaves if your Income is Cut-Off / Reduced

Q & A on Income Supports Available During COVID-19 Pandemic

Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) FAQ


Supplementary COVID-19 Related Resources for Sessionals and Postdocs

Brad WalchukUncategorized

Please see below for some more insights and resources that have been made available over the past few days.
Topics include:1. Alternate Duties and Your Right to (Paid) Applicable Training
2. Advice Regarding Online Courses, from an Experienced Online Instructor
3. Useful “FAQ” Link from Employee/Labour Relations
4. In-Person Office Hours
5. General Concerns


Department Heads and Supervisors are in the process of assessing and delivering information for the transition to online teaching and for any duties that might not require members to be at the University/allow members to work from home.  You should have already received communication about this, or will very shortly.  If you have not received information, or have questions about your duties, we encourage you to speak to your supervisor right away.

As President Farrar has alluded in a recent letter to the McMaster Community, supervisors should be encouraging members of the campus community to stay home wherever possible. If you have ideas about how your work can be completed from home, feel free to bring them up to your supervisor.  Please see point 5 (below) if you have concerns about what you are being asked to do.

Per Article 19.03 of your Collective Agreement, if you are asked to conduct alternative duties involving online or technological resources,  you must be provided with training on any systems with which you are not already familiar. Please make a request for training with your supervisor if are not familiar with the technologies you are being asked to use.


In relation to the above, Dr. Rebecca Barrett-Fox recently wrote a compelling essay entitled, “Please do a bad job of putting your courses online.” Contentious title aside, we would encourage all instructors who have elected to move their courses online to read the article in full. It is important to remember that neither you nor your students signed up for an online course, and the emergency circumstances of an ongoing pandemic will likely be made all the more challenging through sudden shifts in teaching modalities. Whatever you decide, we hope that it allows for you and your students to be well – both physically and mentally.


The Employer has provided a useful “Frequently Asked Questions” style link for CUPE 3906 members:

If you have questions that are not addressed by this link, please do not hesitate to contact us (see: point 5).


For those who teach, we do not believe it is reasonable to expect in-person office hours to be performed. This unnecessarily exposes both yourself and students to unneeded public contact and potential COVID-19 exposure. Such a demand is also not inclusive for workers and students with compromised immune systems. The employer has sent an advisory to all Chairs, Directors, and Deans urging flexible work arrangements and work-from-home options where appropriate. The most recent letter from McMaster’s president also states that supervisors should allow employees to work from home whenever possible.  Electronic office hours are a much safer option in the present instance. If your supervisor is requesting or demanding in-person office hours, please feel free to express your concerns directly to them, your chair, or the Union.


If you have concerns about the work you are asked to perform, or if you face barriers to performing the work you are asked to perform, it is best to bring them up with your supervisor as soon as possible. You can also contact the Union with any concerns ( or

Please note that individual arrangements may vary from department-to-department and course-to-course.  If you have an inquiry that is specific to you, please don’t hesitate to follow up with your supervisor and/or the Union.

MELD Sessionals COVID-19 Update

Brad WalchukUncategorized

Dear MELD Sessionals,

By now, we assume that you’re already aware of the cancellation of classes and exams, and we hope that you’ve ready our recent message sent to all sessional faculty. We’re sending this as a MELD-specific follow-up.

At this point, we’re unsure how the program plans on proceeding with the remainder of the academic year. We have reached out and are awaiting a response, and expect that many of you have done the same. It is our understanding that the MELD program will be closed like undergraduate and graduate classes.

Despite working on an hourly-rated model, we do not foresee the closure of classes to adversely impact you or your access to income. The decision to cancel classes was the employer’s – not yours. As such, we do not believe that the employer is in a position to withhold pay from you. While missed work normally has to be made up within five business days in order to get paid, this is because of changes to the unplanned leave provisions. Unplanned leave is initiated by an employee, not by the employer. The current situation is not one in which you’re unable to attend work and perform the related duties, but rather, one in which the employer has elected to close classes. The unplanned leave and make-up provisions do not apply in this situation.

Unfortunately, it remains unclear what the next steps are for MELD classes, and we will update you as soon as we have some additional clarity. There are various ways to provide make-up learning opportunities for students. We know that you are willing and able to work, and at this juncture, that is all that matters.

We have been informed that there is a joint cc/dd meeting on Monday at 12:30. We advise you all to attend via Zoom rather than travelling to campus.

If you have any additional questions, please let us know.

Unit 3 COVID-19 Update

Brad WalchukUncategorized

Dear Postdocs,

By now, you’re likely aware of McMaster’s decision to cancel classes. Specifically, McMaster has determined that all in-person classes for undergraduate and graduate students will end at the end of the day Friday March 13th and that no in-person exams will be held at the end of this term. We applaud McMaster for the decision to put the safety of students and staff at the forefront.

Please note, however, that while classes are cancelled, the university is otherwise opened. Paradoxically, the Employer expects non-teaching staff to continue to attend work.

Your safety is our first priority. We recommend you make personal decisions that are consistent with your sense of well-being and current health. Please note that your Collective Agreement affords you “10 paid business days per appointment year, or a pro-rated portion equivalent thereof for any portion of an employee’s appointment that is less than 12 months and for employees holding partial appointments.” For clarity, please be advised that “Such days are to be utilized for absences due to personal illness or injury. When an employee utilizes such day(s) they must include such days on the weekly hours of work report given to their Department Administrator. There will be no carry-forward of sick days from one appointment year to the next and there will be no cash payout of unused sick days.”

Please note that “in the event that an employee takes a leave of greater than 5 consecutive business days, the employment supervisor can require a doctor’s note to substantiate the employee’s absence subject to 21.03(a).” To be absolutely clear, we feel that doctor’s notes are antiquated, a burden to an overstretched and underfunded health care system, and put you in harm’s way. Of course, if (self)quarantined, they are not an option in that case. That said, “if requested, an employee must provide medical documentation supporting the absence to their employment supervisor that includes confirmation of an in-person assessment by a physician; workplace restrictions, if any; and a return to work or reassessment date. Where the requested medical documentation includes the foregoing information, the Employer will, to a maximum of $50.00, reimburse the Employee 50% of the cost of the first medical documentation requested for each period of absence due to personal illness or injury regardless of length.”

We would strongly encourage you to reach out to your supervisor to discuss the possibility of work-from-home arrangements and other amendments to your typical work.

If you feel that attending work represents a clear and imminent danger to your health, please let us know.

As it pertains to the next few weeks with public elementary schools closed, our Postdoctoral Support Fund has recently been expanded to include support for childcare. A separate email to this effect will follow in the coming days.

If you have any other questions, please let us know. Please note, however, that we have a large volume of emails and a response may be delayed. We will prioritize emergent situations. Finally, we would like to recognize that McMaster Human Resources has been in regular contact with your Union. We appreciate the transparency and information that they’ve provided to us.