CUPE 3906’s new campaign The union’s new #Bettermac campaign aims to improve the lives of post-graduate students

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By: Emile Shen

Mac’s other union is making its voice heard with their new bargaining campaign.

Employees of McMaster are represented by CUPE 3906, a trade union servicing the public sector and focused on improving working conditions and relationships with the employer. Their current campaign is called #Bettermac.

The #Bettermac campaign revolves around collective bargaining between the members of the union and the employer: McMaster University. The collective element comes from the survey sent out to the large membership to listen to what members found significant. In several general meetings with the membership, priorities were then amalgamated. The bargaining process legally started on May 4, 2016.

The priorities of the campaign center on funding guarantee for five years instead of four, and mental health care coverage. Currently, McMaster provides four years of guaranteed funding for PhD candidates. However, the average PhD takes between five and six years to complete, which means a lack of secure funding for over a year. Simultaneously, graduate students are not eligible for any of the mental health care services at the Student Wellness Centre.

Sarah Wahab, president of CUPE 3906, clarified the conflation between mental illness and financial pressure. “It’s precarious work… Poverty can definitely amplify mental illness. So we think it is very important they have access to [mental health care]… So that’s something that was specifically mentioned in the survey: mental health care.”

If CUPE 3906 were to win the terms of their bargaining, it would also mean higher completion rates of doctorate degrees.

“#bettermac is trying to make a space that we already care deeply about, better. We love McMaster– we want to make it a better space for everyone to work.” Wahab explained.

Gord Arbeau, director of communications at McMaster, explained the university’s current stance.

“McMaster values the important work of the members of the bargaining unit. The university’s goal… is to reach an agreement that reflects the importance of the work of the members of the unit, while also… being financially responsible [so] the contract must reflect the current financial environment.”

The vice-president of CUPE 3906, Graham Baker, shared a similar story but added: “We’d like to keep meeting with them and keep the conversation going. […] We have made progress on a few different items, but some of those big priorities we listed, there is still work to be done there.”

“We kind of pride ourselves on being member-driven, democratic, transparent organization with rules in place that make this process open and fair,” stated Baker.

CUPE 3906 and McMaster will continue to negotiate the terms of the bargain in the next few weeks.

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