posted on Feb. 19: Compensation, health and safety sub-committees meet today


Two joint University-MUSA sub-committees are meeting today to discuss contract issues relating to compensation and health and safety. These meetings support the process to secure a collective agreement and, depending on the progress that is made, will likely set the stage for Wednesday, Feb. 21 when the two parties meet with a mediator and resume bargaining.

The parties are expected to iron out some outstanding issues at the subcommittee-level today. Talks on compensation will include the nature of progression of staff along a new salary grid, the administration of salary for individuals upon job changes such as promotion or demotion, and the placement on the salary grid upon initial hiring of an employee. Health and safety discussions will likely include addressing a MUSA request that employees have their own thermostats.

Mark Haley, assistant vice-president, human resources and a member of the University's negotiating team, says the compensation sub-committee has already made substantial headway on a central issue: the development of one salary grid (there are currently three) for MUSA members, with the grid having 12 pay grades and 11 steps in each pay grade. “Without a pay plan we have nothing to attach the pay scales to, so achieving agreement on this matter will be a big step forward for negotiations.”

Meanwhile, in a Feb. 16 e-mail to its membership, MUSA negotiating committee chair Ron Lodewyks says some of the University's managers have “overstepped their bounds” and “are going so far as to threaten workers with the loss of their job if they participate in a strike,” an action which is illegal under the Ontario Labour Relations Act. “We are bringing this to the attention of Mark Haley and asking his [sic] managers to cease the intimidation.”

Haley says Lodewyks contacted him late last week with such concerns. “I assured Ron that managers have been clearly told that this type of behaviour — such as threatening job loss — is totally inappropriate. I'm awaiting details from Ron on any specific situations.”

MUSA is in a legal position to strike at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 27. However, the University has stated that it will not lock staff out providing no strike action is taken.

In the memorandum to members, Lodewyks says “we will take all means necessary to force the University administration to get a deal done by the mutually agreed upon termination date of the No Board decision…There is time enough to get the contract settled in a friendly manner if there is a willingness to do the necessary work.”

Haley says an agreement by the 27th “is doable but it will require more focus to identify priorities and it will require an understanding that compromise is required. The key element of trust will also be required.” He also says the February 27 date is not a deadline for reaching a contract agreement, and that negotiations can continue past that date until an agreement is reached.

The University has stated that it needed time after negotiations ended in early February to meet with supervisors and managers before returning to the table. Likewise, the union has used the time (away from the table) in early February to consult with its members. Negotiations resume this Wednesday, February 21.

Postscript: Today the University distributed its compensation proposal to members of the McMaster University Staff Association.

Editor's note: MUSA representative Ron Lodewyks has been contacted for a comment for this story.