Negotiations Ongoing Between MUSA and McMaster


Negotiations between the University and the McMaster University Staff Association (MUSA) continue over the summer, albeit slowly. The parties are attempting to work out their first contract.

MUSA became the official union representing most non-teaching employees in early March. Since a first meeting on April 19, MUSA's negotiating committee and the University's negotiating team have met eight times.

Barry Diacon, president of MUSA, says the progress is very slow. “We've mostly dealt with items that are non-contentious. I'd say we are about one-quarter through; the hard stuff is yet to come.”

Both Diacon and John Bowman, director of Human Resources, characterize the meetings as cordial. However, it's clear that each party subscribes to a different process. The union wants to go through each article one at a time, reach an agreement and sign off each individually. The University wants to go through the negotiations and reach agreement on a whole package.

Both parties have posted their respective positions for a contract agreement on their web sites. The MUSA position document can be viewed on the MUSA web site at (there is also a link from the Human Resources site). The University's document can be found on the Human Resources web site under “Employee Relations” at

Bowman feels that, for a first collective agreement, the parties are making progress. “The first (agreement) is always harder. There are more issues because you are considering everything. It always takes longer.” He stresses that the process involves finding compromises. “We can't agree with everything in the MUSA document just because it is there.”

He expresses concern, too, about the length of the union document and the fact that it includes ideas from other university/employee contracts. “We wrote our document to fit the culture of McMaster.”

Diacon admits that much of the MUSA document – about 80 per cent, in his estimation – has been borrowed from Wilfrid Laurier University's contract, with other sections gleaned from the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario contract agreements. “These are Ph.D.-granting universities, like McMaster, with new bargaining units. The cultures are not that much different from that here at Mac.” He says the Wilfrid Laurier agreement is written in easy-to-understand language and is well-known to MUSA union consultant Brian Switzman, who assisted with its negotiation.

Both sides seem frustrated by the lack of discussions during July and August. Bowman says the University's team offered 9 possible dates when at least some of the administration members could be present. However, MUSA was not prepared to meet unless the majority of its team could be present, Diacon says. Summer vacations have resulted in scheduling difficulties for the union. A meeting was held on July 12; August 2 is the next scheduled meeting date. In addition, Diacon says he understood there had been an agreement that a four or five-day intensive session will take place towards the end of August.

Neither side will predict how soon an agreement might be reached. “We expect to get more focused and pick up speed as time goes along,” says Diacon.

“It's going to be a lengthy process,” said Bowman. “Given the few days available in the summer, the University suggested that around the end of August the parties could schedule a three or four-day session of intensive discussions.”