posted on Feb. 22: MUSA addresses questions about negotiations in e-mail to members


This is the full, unedited text of an e-mail sent today to members of the McMaster University Staff Association from Ron Lodewyks, chair of the MUSA negotiating committee.

“We meant to send this message two days ago, but the activity of
negotiating through the night has impeded us. Our apologies…

On Wed. Feb. 21, the negotiating teams met again for what could be the
final lap to achieving our first collective agreement. Starting at 3:30
p.m. the University team said that they would be prepared to meet with
us for “around the clock” bargaining.

As we enter this phase of the negotiations the negotiating team has been
attending area meetings set up by the local representatives to provide
information to the Members. What we are finding out is that there are
still many questions as you try to understand a process that is new to
all of us. I will try to address some of the more common ones.

Q. How much money is MUSA asking for?

A. It is the bargaining team's goal to get the best overall package. If
we want and get benefit improvements such as semi-private hospital
coverage etc., this will have some impact on the value of the package
and the percent increase we negotiate. We have objectives based on
economic losses of Members due to cost of living increases since 1992
and a fair relationship to rates of pay of comparable occupations in
other employers as shown for example in a salary survey done by McMaster
HR in 1998.

Q. Why does the University often reference their monetary proposal as
“initial” ?

A. We can only speculate, but we take this as a signal that there is
still a reasonable amount of room to move left for them in the area of
salary increases.

Q. Why doesn't MUSA respond to the “Daily news” articles?

A. MUSA, in this case the bargaining team, is responsible to you the
Member. We will provide the information and answers as best we can
directly to our Members via e-mails, area meetings, or in-person as much
as we are able. On the other hand the “Daily News” is a forum for
communication to the entire planet. It is public and response to this
forum leads to bargaining in public rather than at the bargaining table,
which we wish to avoid. In addition the “Daily News” is sponsored by,
approved by, and in fact is the public relations agent of the
Administration. Early on in the bargaining John Bowman advised us
(threatened) to use all the resources of the McMaster Office of Public
Relations to its full extent to deal with the negotiations. In fact, he
went so far as to boast that he would have the term
“e-negotiations” trademark protected. The “Daily News” is controlled by
the Office of Public Relations. Therefore since the “Daily News” is not
perceived by us as an unbiased journal we avoid having our words
potentially taken out of context where issues of this importance are

Q. If there is a strike how much will I be paid?

A. MUSA hopes that a strike will be avoided. If there was a strike, MUSA
does not have the funds to cover what is termed picket-strike pay.

Q. If there is no strike pay, how will I pay my bills?

A. If a strike occurred in the near future and was of relatively short
duration (less that two weeks), practically speaking it would be the
middle of March before most people would be paid their next pay. At a
minimum, you would receive the two weeks pay owing up to the end of
February on your March pay. Typically most small bills such as heat and
hydro if unpaid for one month will only result in a relatively small

MUSA has also established a “FINANCIAL HARDSHIP COMMITTEE”. This
committee will make loans or provide staples on an as-needed basis after
all other avenues have been exhausted. This will be done using MUSA's
savings. In addition, we are starting to get FINANCIAL AID OFFERS from
various other labour groups to provide credit to MUSA. Examples are the
Wilfrid Laurier Staff Association, Laurentian University Staff Union,
York University Staff Association, Canadian Union of Public Employees,
Local 3906, United Steelworkers of America.

Q. What about my mortgage and rent or car payments.

A. For larger payments such as a mortgage, IF YOU NOTIFY THE LENDING
INSTITUTION IN ADVANCE, they will typically allow you to skip one
payment per year (if you have good relations with them), and add it to
the end of your term. You must notify them IN ADVANCE. If you don't
feel comfortable doing this, contact the MUSA office. We have
volunteers who will accompany you to help explain the situation to your
lending institution.

RATIFIED. This money should certainly help to cover any short term
penalties. On a $30,000.00 per year salary, the minimum lump sum
payment would be $2,160.00 .

If there are still situations of hardship during a potential strike,

Q. What about the honouring of MUSA picket lines by other workers who
may not regard MUSA as a “real union”?

A. MUSA is being supported by the Hamilton & District Labour Council in
the distribution of a letter to the 115 affiliated unions. The letter
requested the Labour Council's affiliates to honour MUSA picket lines.

Ron Lodewyks, Negotiating Chair

EMAIL – Thurs., Feb. 22, evening:

NEGOTIATION UPDATE….The MUSA bargaining team met with the
University Administration bargaining team starting in the afternoon on
Wed. Feb. 21. Negotiations went around the clock until 6:30
a.m. Thursday morning.

MUSA's team confirms that there has been some progress made, but that
realistically the progress has been incremental in terms of the overall

EMAIL – Fri. Feb. 23 – 2 p.m.

NEGOTIATION UPDATE…. The two teams met for their second round,
starting at 8 pm Thursday, Feb. 22. Again they met around the clock,
working into the morning.

Bargaining will resume this afternoon.