New Agreement at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario

October 23, 2012, 9:30 AM EST

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CAW Local 555 members at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario have ratified a four- year collective agreement with 85 per cent voting in favour of the new deal.

Negotiations began in June of this year.  Following two initial rounds of talks with the employer, the bargaining committee was faced with a policy letter from Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, calling for a two-year wage freeze in the broader public sector, among other demands.

"In spite of the outside pressure from the provincial government, our bargaining committee persevered and managed to achieve a settlement that was unanimously endorsed by the bargaining team and a majority of the local's membership," said Matt Root, CAW Local 555 president.

The agreement does reflect the compulsory two year freeze, but provides for 1.5% across the board increases to wages in each of years three and four.  It also includes a lump sum offset payment in the third year to cover an increase to employee pension contributions.  A major victory in this agreement is that step progression through the wage grid is not frozen. Members will continue to receive step increases for the life of the deal.

 Major improvements to language were also achieved, including language surrounding layoffs, and job postings.  The language was strengthened to reflect that current members who experience layoff will be placed into vacant positions before postings go external.  The Job Evaluation dispute system, was simplified and expedited to allow for final offer selection arbitration in the event the parties are unable to reach an agreement. 

The supplementary unemployment benefit for parental leave was increased to 19 weeks at 90% of salary, and the alternative parental leave provision was increased from 2 weeks to 4 weeks.

"The union will now be able to better advocate on behalf of members experiencing workplace harassment issues," Beth Couchman, unit chairperson.  The committee negotiated a Joint Union and Employer Harassment Investigation committee and a process that includes input from the union every step of the process.

CAW Local 555 represents 2300 members at McMaster University and Regional Medical Associates of Hamilton and is a member of the ETOP (Education, Technical, Office and Professional Workers Council).

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