We can now confirm that multiple departments at McMaster University (the Employer) intend to exclude all Teaching Assistants working outside the province of Ontario (but elsewhere in Canada) from the bargaining unit. Practically speaking, this means stripping out-of-province TAs of the rights, privileges, and protections afforded by their membership with CUPE 3906, and we have every reason to believe this will be a university-wide practice that causes major problems for many Unit 1 members. Losing one’s rights as a Union member not only leaves a person vulnerable to all sorts of unjust labour practices, it also means no longer having access to the many benefits and services that the Union provides.
The protections and services these members will lose include (but are not limited to):
- Wage protections
- Dental benefits
- A Health Care Spending Account
- UHIP rebates
- The Gender Affirmation Fund
- Protections against harassment and discrimination
- Protections against unjust termination
- Various paid and unpaid leaves
- Access to the grievance process
- Access to collective bargaining
- Access to CUPE 3906 Membership Meetings
McMaster officials claim their decision to exclude out-of-province TAs from the Union was made based on their interpretation of the Unit 1 Collective Agreement; however, they have yet to explain how such a callous act – in the middle of a pandemic – could ever be conceived as ethical or responsible. We not only disagree on their supposed entitlement to make such a decision, but also condemn their actions as a cruel and blatant example of union busting. The University stands to gain nothing from this practice but the chance to destabilize the Union and, by extension, put all CUPE 3906 members at risk.
The Union has attempted to resolve this matter internally via a Letter of Understanding (LOU) that would ensure no members have to face further undue hardship as we all struggle through the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impacts. Unfortunately, we have received little response from the Employer and have no reason to think they are currently interested in signing the proposed LOU. Our preference would have been to find a solution without causing worry for our members; however, the University has made it clear that this won’t be possible.
The Union is pursuing every avenue we have to fight this, but we cannot do it alone. We need all CUPE 3906 members and allies to join us in pressuring McMaster to abandon any and all plans to exclude out-of-province TAs from the bargaining unit. We ask that you please sign and share this letter calling on the administration to sign our LOU and commit to recognizing the continued membership of out-of-province TAs so long as online course, lab, and tutorial delivery remain as replacements for in-person instruction.
Without such an agreement, the impending exclusions are bound to affect our friends, family, and colleagues. As Union members and allies, we must stand together and tell McMaster that this cruel practice is unacceptable.