In April 2017, an agreement between The Building Union of Canada on behalf of the Operation and Maintenance Staff of McMaster and the university was reached to update the Pay Equity Plan. Effective Oct. 8, all cleaning staff, regardless of job title, will be paid identical wages. This does not include wage increases due to experience.

This conclusion has been overdue for decades. At a Board of Governors meeting on Oct. 21, 2010, they voted to ratify the tentative agreements between the University and the Service Employees International Union, the ones representing the staff at the time. These negotiations left a lot to be desired.

84 full-time employees were assigned wages at or below the poverty line without dental or health coverage benefits. Part-time employees were left even worse off as they were non-unionized until the mid-2000s, and their recency became a disadvantage. It resulted in a 25 per cent reduction in pay for cleaners according to Peter Foulds, director of operations for BUC.

The BUC took over in August 2013. Using arguments related to the living wage, a heavily researched concept at McMaster, points made in Patrick Deane’s “Forward with Integrity” paper, arbitration and digging into the specifics of old agreements, they eventually got to a point where they could renegotiate.

After lawyers, government officials and a large amount of legal back and forth, the university conceded that they had not had proper pay equity practices in place for an extensive period of time dating to before the 2010 agreement.

This agreement from April includes pay increases between 5.2 per cent and 21 per cent for staff, lump sum payments to compensate for the failure to maintain the pay equity and represents the first monetary increase since that 2010 date.

Foulds believes that McMaster is now treating its employees fairly. The legal progress and agreements are one that the union, the university and the staff are happy with.

The next steps relate to the potential for the Ontario government to push forward additional legislation on the minimum wage in the province. Another, more immediate process currently in progress is a grievance filed related to parking privileges during employees’ night shift. The next meeting for this is expected to take place on Aug. 3.

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