As education workers at McMaster University began voting today on whether to give their bargaining committee a mandate to take whatever steps they deem necessary to secure a fair collective agreement, support for the members of Unit 1 of Local 3906 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE 3906-1) poured in from across the Province.
“Our goal remains the same – to achieve a fair contract that protects quality post-secondary education at McMaster and meets the needs of our members, without strike action,” said Nathan Todd, President of CUPE 3906, which represents Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants in lieu (Unit 1), Sessional faculty (Unit 2) and Postdoctoral Fellows (Unit 3) at McMaster.
“I’m confident our members will send a clear message to our employer and to the Ford Conservatives that we will not be intimidated into surrendering our right to collectively bargain,” he added.
Bargaining between Local 3906-1 and McMaster has been underway since the beginning of summer. However, efforts have stalled due to McMaster’s insistence on limiting any agreement to terms dictated by Bill 124 – the so-called ‘wage restraint’ legislation tabled in June by the Ford Conservatives.
If passed, Bill 124 would, among other things, strictly limit overall compensation improvements to well below the rate of inflation, and give Cabinet Ministers unprecedented powers to nullify freely-negotiated contracts between most public-sector employers and unions representing public sector workers.
Bargaining between McMaster and Unit 3 of CUPE 3906 has also faced obstacles, with the University making similarly heavy-handed demands.
The workers in attendance heard a strong commitment from CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn, who told them they could count on the support from more than 270,000 CUPE members across the province.
“The Ford Conservatives want institutions like McMaster to do their dirty work of forcing workers into accepting bad contracts that put them farther and farther behind every year, under the threat of having their Charter-protected rights taken away,” said Hahn.
“Teaching assistants perform the bulk of the tutorials and labs here at McMaster. You mark virtually every single piece of work students hand in. You are practically the heart and the soul of quality post-secondary education at McMaster and we will stand with you, shoulder to shoulder, as you take whatever steps are necessary to achieve a fair collective agreement,” he added.
Hahn’s sentiments were echoed by Janice Folk-Dawson, Chair of the Ontario University Workers’ Coordinating Committee (OUWCC), which speaks on behalf of CUPE’s post-secondary education workers in the province.
“You are not alone in your efforts. You are joined by every CUPE member, and in particular every single OUWCC member and we will support in every possible way to ensure your rights are respected and you achieve the fair settlement you deserve,” said Folk-Dawson.