posted on March 7: Hours of work a key consideration in contract talks


Hours of work are expected to be an important component of today's negotiations between McMaster and the McMaster University Staff Association. Talks are to resume this afternoon, with the continuing assistance of the mediator.

“Overtime is a contentious issue,” acknowledges Dave Tucker, a member of the University's bargaining team. “We understand that some people haven't been treated fairly in the past. We know that's true. Part of the problem is that there has been no common approach to overtime and how it's earned and compensated. We understand that these issues need to be addressed in a fair way.”

But Tucker is concerned that MUSA's current proposals could create new problems while fixing old ones. “The University has for many years been committed to flex time arrangements that allow employees and managers to work together to determine the hours of the work day. It's meant that if someone needs to leave early one day he or she can make up the time another day. Or if people need to work late because of a special project, or a time of peak demand in the office, they can take the time later. MUSA's proposal would put a straitjacket on flex time arrangements because all changes to the hours of the work day would need to be approved by the union in advance.”

Many members of MUSA work very regular and predictable hours. Tucker believes many others have always understood that their particular role involves a lot of variation and flexibility on both sides. He says, “Often employees have a high degree of independence and work ownership and that's part of what makes this a good place to work. MUSA's proposals would impose a punch-clock approach that wouldn't work in most areas of the University.”

The University bargaining team says its proposal would create a balance between flexibility and a more formal system that clearly recognizes the value of overtime. Tucker says, “This is the kind of flexibility that is appropriate to a University environment. We need to find a fair way to accommodate it.”