TAs and RAs vote in favour of striking if an agreement is not reached

Kate O'Melia
October 27, 2022
Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

JESSICA YANG / MULTIMEDIA ASSISTANT

TAs and RAs have decided in a 90% positive vote that they’re ready to strike if McMaster University doesn’t meet their demands regarding fairer wages and benefits 

On Oct. 20 the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3906 announced that teaching and research assistants had voted in favour of striking if necessary. The union is in negotiations with McMaster University on raising wages and increasing benefits. CUPE3906’s President, Chris Fairweather, says the university’s offer was unacceptable for workers. 

The poll showed workers strongly supported the strike, with 90% of TAs voting to strike if necessary. While TAs and RAs are not striking as of yet, they are willing to do so if an agreement cannot be reached at the bargaining table. No dates have been set for a possible strike. 

This decision comes from CUPE3906, who says the University is raising wages at less than the rate of inflation. CUPE3906 claimed in an Instagram post that if the university had continued to raise the wages to keep up with inflation, TAs would be paid $5/hr more than the current rates. 

The 2019-2022 Collective Agreement between McMaster University and CUPE3906 on behalf of Unit 1, McMaster’s 2500 teaching and research assistants, expired the first week of September before the contract could be renegotiated. The agreement stated that TAs may not strike for the duration of the agreement. 

Prior to the poll, CUPE3906 held two Q&A sessions as well as a special general membership meeting before the vote that took place between Oct. 17 and Oct. 19. CUPE3906 urged TAs to vote in favour of the strike in order to prevent falling further behind in job quality. 

CUPE3906 claims that many universities have allowed their employees’ salaries to fall behind the rate of inflation and that schools are making large enough profits to fairly compensate their workers. In McMaster University’s 2020-2021 Annual Financial Report, they claimed a $232 million excess of revenues over expenses, surpassing the original estimate of $43.4 million.

During ongoing negotiations, CUPE3906 is pushing for three key issues, the first being financial security and compensation. CUPE3906 is pushing for increased wages, minimum 65-hour contracts opposed to current 32-hour minimums, closing the wage gap between undergraduate and graduate students, and other employee services for example access to parking. 

Their second key issue is physical and mental health and wellness which asks for expansion of current health care reimbursements, additional UHIP coverage for international students, affordable dental coverage and expansion of the Gender Affirmation Fund. 

The final key issue CUPE3906 will be negotiating for is improved working conditions meaning regulating the number of students that can be assigned to a TA in a seminar or tutorial, further clarity on hours of work forms, transparency of working conditions and re-securing 5 hours of paid training in the new collective agreement. 

The bargaining team has been authorized by the positive vote to call for a strike if a fair agreement cannot be reached. TAs and RAs will be informed through their McMaster emails with updates on the bargaining. Updates can also be found on CUPE3906’s website at https://bettermac.ca/

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