In April 2017, an agreement between The Building Union of Canada on behalf of the Operation and Maintenance Staff of McMaster and the university was reached to update the Pay Equity Plan. Effective Oct. 8, all cleaning staff, regardless of job title, will be paid identical wages. This does not include wage increases due to experience.

This conclusion has been overdue for decades. At a Board of Governors meeting on Oct. 21, 2010, they voted to ratify the tentative agreements between the University and the Service Employees International Union, the ones representing the staff at the time. These negotiations left a lot to be desired.

84 full-time employees were assigned wages at or below the poverty line without dental or health coverage benefits. Part-time employees were left even worse off as they were non-unionized until the mid-2000s, and their recency became a disadvantage. It resulted in a 25 per cent reduction in pay for cleaners according to Peter Foulds, director of operations for BUC.

The BUC took over in August 2013. Using arguments related to the living wage, a heavily researched concept at McMaster, points made in Patrick Deane’s “Forward with Integrity” paper, arbitration and digging into the specifics of old agreements, they eventually got to a point where they could renegotiate.

After lawyers, government officials and a large amount of legal back and forth, the university conceded that they had not had proper pay equity practices in place for an extensive period of time dating to before the 2010 agreement.

This agreement from April includes pay increases between 5.2 per cent and 21 per cent for staff, lump sum payments to compensate for the failure to maintain the pay equity and represents the first monetary increase since that 2010 date.

Foulds believes that McMaster is now treating its employees fairly. The legal progress and agreements are one that the union, the university and the staff are happy with.

The next steps relate to the potential for the Ontario government to push forward additional legislation on the minimum wage in the province. Another, more immediate process currently in progress is a grievance filed related to parking privileges during employees’ night shift. The next meeting for this is expected to take place on Aug. 3.

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By: Haoda Yan

What’s the most important political issue of 2015? Is it global warming? The Syrian refugee crisis? Increasing rates of Islamophobia in Canada? Donald Trump as President of the United States?

The biggest issue of 2015 is brought to you by the letters T, P, and P, an international trade agreement which will directly affect the average citizen. If you thought the Stop Online Piracy Act — an American bill proposed to control internet activity — was troublesome, you’d be surprised at how much damage the Trans-Pacific Partnership could do.

Although it is being promoted by governments as a way to foster innovation, encourage economic growth, and create jobs, the TPP instead benefits corporations, who aren’t necessarily in the business of serving citizens. Although it is clear that the TPP intends to increase corporate profits, nobody is willing to explain just how it intends to accomplish that. The main question is why nobody involved is willing to divulge any information about the arrangement. Canadian citizens should really be concerned about an agreement where the only documents the public was privy to during its drafting were the ones released by Wikileaks. Many things become less regulated under this trade agreement including environmental policies, food safety standards, and labour laws. Food safety legislation would become moot as the TPP allows any corporation to sue any government over policies that could “impact expected future profits.” Factors that would impact profits include things like package warnings and virtually any other policy that exists to protect consumers.

Under the guise of defending innovators from thieves, the TPP intends to snuff out smaller businesses by creating monopolies for almost every product. Ironically, although supporters of the TPP claim it will create jobs, the agreement will actually ship jobs overseas. With no more trade barriers, corporations would be entirely free to outsource labour to countries with lower wages. This is bad news for workers, consumers, and especially students, robbing them of learning resources, job opportunities, and much more. Are we just going to stand idly by as this policy threatens to hurt everyone but big businesses?

The TPP would give multi-national firms an incredible amount of international power. Individual politicians come and go, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership has no expiry date, which is why it has to be sunk before it reaches the Pacific shore. Given that the public is still largely in the dark, the only groups currently influencing this legislation are the same self-serving corporations. Canadian citizens need to respond quickly and loudly if we want to stop this trade agreement from being fast-tracked through parliament. The TPP is a Trojan Horse, and much like the Trojans happily inviting this threat into their walls, we will all suffer for it.

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Despite last term’s vote by the SRA that MSU members would no longer pay part-time fees during summer sessions, the McMaster Association of Part-time Students has plans to continue collecting these fees anyway. The two organizations are now at odds with each other in terms of what will happen with student fees this upcoming summer.

A December media release from MAPS opposed the MSU’s stance and outlined preliminary plans for a “summer advocacy program” based on survey results as a suitable way to spend summer student funds.

MAPS president Andrew Smith said the program “will be designed to identify aspects of the summer academic term that may be changed to improve the student experience of our members.” Smith suggested this will specifically entail comparing the summer session with the fall/winter term, course availability and comparisons to other universities.

Some aspects of the media release, however, don’t hold water under further scrutiny.

MAPS claimed, “Between the date of this agreement (1986) and last year, the MSU decided that their membership lasts for twelve months of the year (they decided this unilaterally). They say because of this, full-time students should not have to pay student fees if they take courses during the summer, and they want this change to happen for this May.”

In actuality, the MSU amended their bylaws at an SRA meeting in 1988, clarifying their 12-month membership. Kyle Johansen, MAPS' executive director from July to December 2013 was at that 1988 meeting as an SRA Social Sciences representative and spoke in favour of the amendment, suggesting that “full” be added regarding MSU membership holders in order to be clearer.

Another claim by MAPS that the University might not be able to “identify MSU versus MAPS students during summer session registration” was also refuted in recent conversations the Silhouette had with the Office of the Registrar.

Additionally, after reiterating that the original MSU-MAPS agreement always intended for MSU members to be reimbursed for summer fees, the release goes on to say that in May 2014, “To temporarily deal with the MSU's demands, at least for this year, MAPS would refund summer student fees to MSU members, upon request.”

Jeffrey Doucet, VP (Finance) of the MSU, disagrees with MAPS’ ability to collect such fees.

“Collecting the fee would be effectively ignoring the MSU’s governance mechanism,” he said. “It was the SRA that empowered MAPS to first collect the fee and now the SRA no longer views the fee as legitimate," Doucet said.

It is unclear as to why, historically, MSU members have not sought – or, perhaps, known that they could seek – reimbursement of summer session fees.

“MAPS has no record of the MSU ever exercising that option,” Smith said.

At the time of the Sept. 29, 2013 meeting in which the SRA voted unanimously to break from the 1986 agreement, MSU President David said repeated attempts had been made for eight months to meet with MAPS and renegotiate the agreement.

“We’ve done everything we could to negotiate in good faith,” Campbell said. He described unilaterally breaking from the agreement as “our only option.”

The University's administration is unclear in terms of how the two organizations will resolve the conflict. Associate VP (Students and Learning) Sean Van Koughnett said, “There is no specific process to determine the final outcome of this situation, but rather, the outcome will be determined over the next two months in large part through any further discussions between the two student organizations and based on the wishes of our students.”





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