Update: Negotiations with Building Union of Canada

McMaster hopes that a more realistic proposal from the union will bring the University and the representatives of its cleaning and maintenance staff closer to a new collective agreement.

The Building Union of Canada (BUC) represents approximately 270 custodians, cleaners and skilled trade workers at McMaster.

In a letter to the editor of The Silhouette on April 1, Roger Couldrey, McMaster’s vice-president Administration reaffirmed the University’s commitment to ensure all members of the bargaining unit earn a living wage.

“McMaster whole-heartedly agrees” that these employees should be paid a living wage. “Over several months of negotiations the University has consistently offered contracts that guarantee a living wage for all members of the bargaining unit. Each time, the union has rejected these offers that would ensure all its members earn a ‘living wage’,” Couldrey wrote.

BUC is asking for salary increases and other changes that total approximately 12% over a two-year deal.  “Ontario universities are feeling increasing pressure from fiscal restraints and the province has been clear in its expectations that we negotiate reasonable contracts,” said Couldrey.

The University’s last proposal, rejected by the Union, included provisions ensuring all members of the bargaining unit earn above the living wage.

Casual cleaners would see their hourly wage rise to $15 per hour from $13.75 an hour, in the first year of the contract.

During each of the five years, all members of the unit would receive across-the-board raises.

The unit was formerly represented by SEIU but members of the local chose to be represented by BUC in 2013.  The switch in representation means that a new collective agreement has to be negotiated even though more than two years remained on the existing agreement.  When that contract was negotiated the union worked with the University to establish a new range of wage rates in order to ensure no job losses.

“The work performed by our cleaning and maintenance staff  is important.  But every area of the University needs to find efficiencies as we make sure that as many resources as possible go directly to support teaching for students and the research enterprise which continue to make McMaster a university of international renown,” said Couldrey.

“Those are priorities we know our students, their parents, our community and the province expect us to support in every way we can.”

The University and the union have been bargaining since early this fall.  Currently more than half of the collective agreement has been agreed to.  The most significant outstanding issues are all related to compensation.

Across campus, all areas, departments and units have been working to reduce costs and create efficiencies. Some of these measures include restructuring, reorganization and amalgamation of services.