posted on Nov. 30: MUSA, University negotiators to meet with conciliator


Bargaining teams for both the University and the McMaster University Staff Association (MUSA) expect to meet with a conciliator in the coming weeks to move contract talks along.

The negotiating team for MUSA informed the University negotiating team on Nov. 24 that it has applied to the Ontario Ministry of Labour for a conciliation officer. Either party can request conciliation. It is expected a conciliator will be appointed within the next few weeks.

MUSA president Barry Diacon says the union's bargaining team made the application because “we have reached an impasse with the management (bargaining) team on the most important items in the contract language. We have been talking back and forth for awhile now and are not making any progress, even though our proposals on language are in place and working at other universities.”

According to Diacon, the team has made no significant headway on issues relating to seniority, hours of work, job postings, redundancy, layoff and recall, management rights, grievance procedures, contracting out and work of the bargaining unit. The two parties have been trying to hammer out an agreement since early spring. MUSA was certified as a trade union in February 2000.

Diacon is hopeful that by bringing in a third party, both groups will be able to look at the issues with a fresh perspective.

Mark Haley, assistant vice-president human resources, says bringing in a conciliator is premature. “It can be a part of the process and may be very helpful. We haven't yet discussed money and there are still some other matters we haven't discussed. The University (negotiating team) wants to discuss compensation. Compensation is a very important issue to our employees and to the University.”

Talks between the two parties are expected to continue and meetings are scheduled for Dec. 5, 14 and 19.

But before then, it is expected the University bargaining team will present a complete offer, including a monetary package, to MUSA's team. “The University team has indicated to MUSA negotiators that it will table an offer within the next few weeks,” says Haley. “Staff at the University are hardworking and they have been without a pay increase for some time. We need to get to a settlement soon so people can receive an increase.”

Diacon says MUSA's position all along has been to deal with non-monetary items first. “The non-monetary language is the essential foundation that the salary and benefit items rest upon. Typically in contract talks, the monetary items are dealt with at the end of the bargaining.”

The two parties have had 26 meetings since they initially met on April 19 to work out a first agreement.

MUSA members last received an increase in salary in January 2000. That increase, recommended by a mediator, was retroactive (for the period July 1, 1998 to June 30, 1999).

Negotiation dates for January have yet to be scheduled, but Haley says “We're committed to working hard to get this done.”