posted on Feb. 12: MUSA ready to go back to the bargaining table


Negotiators for the McMaster University Staff Association are ready to go back to the bargaining table with the University as early as today (Tuesday, Feb. 13) to reach the first collective agreement between the two parties.

“We've sent a message to them (the University's bargaining team) suggesting various dates and times, and we've indicated we're willing to do it as early as today. Today is the first day we offered,” says MUSA president Barry Diacon.

Yesterday (Monday, Feb. 12) 1,152 members of the association voted on a contract offer proposed by the University. Diacon says he's happy with the outcome of the vote, which saw 1,021 members reject the offer (and 129 vote in favour of it). There were two spoiled ballots.

It's unlikely the two parties will be back at the table before next week.

Mark Haley, assistant vice-president human resources and a member of the University's bargaining team, says that the parties need first to agree on a process for resuming negotiations. For example, a significant issue (for the administration) is the importance of involving a mediator; another is the wisdom of extending deadlines if progress is being made.

“Some time ago we scheduled meetings with managers and supervisors for Wednesday and Thursday of this week. These meetings help the bargaining team get a detailed understanding of the needs of our managers and supervisors as they relate to the outcomes for these negotiations,” Haley says. Once the administration has had an opportunity to understand and analyze information from these meetings, the University's bargaining team will return to the table, he adds.

Earlier this month, the union filed for a “No Board” report. The action puts the two parties in a position to legally strike or lockout as of 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 27. (Both parties agreed to this date as the earliest such action would be taken, although the filing of the “No Board” report on Feb. 9 meant action could have been taken earlier.) The University has indicated it would not lock staff out.

Diacon is hopeful the two parties will be back at the table soon. As for the possibility of a strike vote sometime this month, Diacon says “It would be premature to say (that there will be one). It depends on the University. We need to get back to the table and start bargaining.”

Haley says the progress of negotiations will depend on the union's ability to clearly define its key issues. “For negotiations to move forward we need the union to identify its priorities so that we can both focus on the important issues in these negotiations, with an eye to a settlement. We hope that when we sit down at the table again the union will address the initial offer we set out two months ago.”

Haley says the administration has always maintained that this (the contract proposal rejected yesterday) was an “initial offer which forms a solid basis for continuing negotiations, and we're pleased that negotiations will be continuing.”