posted on Feb. 5: Staff association’s negotiating committee walks away from bargaining table


The negotiating committee for the McMaster University Staff Association broke off negotiations with the University's negotiating team last Friday and has asked the Ministry of Labour's conciliation officer for a “No Board” report.

This action is a legal step that means the conciliation officer advises the Minister of Labour that he has not been able to effect a collective agreement between the parties. The minister may then issue a report, commonly known as a “No Board” report.

“The University's negotiating team is disappointed that MUSA has taken
this step,” said Mark Haley, assistant vice-president human resources
and a member of the University's negotiating team. “We felt we were
making some progress and had anticipated being able to offer a series of dates to continue negotiations through March. The union's lack of willingness to meet and lack of willingness to define its priorities is of great concern to us. Frankly, we don't understand why the MUSA
team never responded to the initial monetary offer that was put on the table in December.”

Haley says MUSA indicated on Friday that the University's current offer would be presented to their members for a vote with a recommendation that it be rejected. “They also indicated that the vote would be taken around February 12 or 13 (earlier if possible) and requested that it take place within the workplace during regular working hours. The University has agreed to
both of these requests.”

In a communique to members dated Sunday, Feb. 4, MUSA states that it has applied to the ministry for the “No Board” report and that it will hold a membership vote on the University's offer on Monday, Feb. 12.

“The employer has barely budged from its position, which, in good conscience, this bargaining team cannot recommend to you. The employer's offer, both in money and in rights, is substandard and, indeed, in many areas worse than what currently exists,” the MUSA communique states.

The communique emphasizes that the vote on the offer is not a strike vote. “By law this vote is solely for the purpose of acceptance or rejection of the employer's offer.” The association plans to hold information meetings Feb. 6-9 at various locations on campus and at affiliated hospitals.

Haley says MUSA's plan to hold a vote on the offer and not a strike vote comes as a surprise. “On Friday, the negotiating team indicated to us they they would be holding a strike vote. This would have put the union and its members in a legal strike position by the end of February. Their decision not to hold such a vote at this time is a change in direction and we'll need to talk to them further about this development.”

The University's proposals can be found on the Human Resources Web site at MUSA has also posted the University's offer on its Web site (this posting includes a MUSA critique of the proposals)

The University and MUSA anticipate that they will have the report from
the Ministry of Labour within the next two weeks. Once the report is in hand, negotiations may take one of two routes:

7 the ministry may appoint a mediator (Depending on the results of mediation there could be a strike and lockout or a binding agreement made by a compulsory arbitration board.);

7 either MUSA or the University may request a Compulsory Arbitration Board decision (This option is open to either the employer or the union in situations where a first collective agreement is being negotiated.) The third party would mandate a settlement.

Administrators at McMaster are concerned about the impact a labour disruption would have on students. “We're a student-focussed organization and so obviously we would not like to see academic studies interrupted,” says Haley. “We're willing to return to the table at any time. A negotiated settlement is the best way to resolve this matter.” He thinks it's highly likely that the ministry will appoint a mediator.

Editor's note: Calls from Daily News staff to MUSA president Barry Diacon were not returned before the posting of this story at 2:30 p.m. on Monday. Diacon's comments will be added to the story once they are received.

Postscript(Feb. 7): To view MUSA's response, see MUSA refutes statements in Daily News article.