MUALA votes in favour of tentative agreement

After a long and challenging period of bargaining, a tentative agreement was reached between the McMaster University Academic Librarians’ Association and the employer early the morning hours of Nov 14th 2015. In a vote that closed Nov 19th, the members of MUALA voted in favour of ratifying the agreement. Details of the agreement will be made available once the ratification process is complete.

Throughout the bargaining process, the membership remained committed, consistently showing their strong support of the bargaining team and the actions taken towards achieving an agreement. The team and the membership were bolstered by the rallying support of other unions and associations as demonstrated through meaningful letters, blog posts, emails, tweets, and calls.

Thank you. We are grateful for all that you did and honoured to be part of such a community.

MUALA Executive and Bargaining Team

McMaster unions in full support of MUALA

MUALA leadership met with other unions on campus today to discuss our ongoing efforts to secure a fair and equitable deal from the university. The outcome of the discussion was hugely positive; shortly after the meeting, CUPE 3906 released the following statement:

“The consensus amongst the unions here on campus — CUPE, Unifor, IUOE, and BUC — was that the librarians have our full support during their difficult negotiations with McMaster.”

Sincere thanks to the members of CUPE 3906, Unifor 5555, IUOE 772, and the Building Union of Canada for their solidarity and support during this trying time.

McMaster University Library Negotiations at a Breaking Point (Press Release)

After four days of conciliation, the McMaster University Academic Librarians’ Association (MUALA) has asked the Conciliator for a “No Board” report placing the Association in a legal strike position in November.

The Association is disappointed that talks are breaking down.

“We are very frustrated in the Employer’s aggressive bargaining tactics and their disregard for the crucial role our members play in the Universities’ teaching and research success. Our members very much want to be working with students and supporting faculty research rather than walking the picket line,” says MUALA President Laura Banfield.

On October 9th, 94% of the membership voted unanimously (100%) in favour of a strike mandate. With the request for a no-board, the MUALA Executive will now be in a position to call for a strike 17 days after the Ministry issues the report.

The University and the Academic Librarians began bargaining in June of this year and many significant issues related to academic rights and responsibilities, career advancement, benefits and compensation remain outstanding.

“McMaster has tabled a wage increase that is far below inflation and less than what others have received, and is trying to cut the merit pay that was agreed to in the last round. This is about equity and fairness,” says Banfield. “We remain hopeful that the Employer will return to the table with a reasonable offer so that a deal can be reached before our strike deadline”.

MUALA represents Academic Librarians who work at McMaster University’s University Library and Health Sciences Library. Academic Librarians, who are required to hold advanced academic credentials, play an integral role at research universities. Their responsibilities include: support for research and teaching; the preservation, collection and provision of scholarly materials; and, involvement in independent scholarly activity.

Contact: Laura Banfield, MUALA President,
For more information visit the MUALA Website:

Press Release – McMaster Librarians – Nov 3 2015

MUALA votes in support of a strike mandate (Press Release)

With a voter turnout of 92%, 100% of members voted yes in a strike vote held today and yesterday by the Academic Librarians at McMaster University. The Union Executive is now authorized to call for job action if necessary to achieve a fair and reasonable settlement with the University.

“Bargaining is stalling as a result of the employer’s demands to strip away members’ professional and academic rights” says Laura Banfield, President of the McMaster University Academic Librarian Association (MUALA). “This strike vote shows the members’ overwhelming support for their Bargaining Team and their determination to reach a fair agreement soon.”

The employer is trying to remove Academic Librarians’ right to participate in academic decision making and shield their decisions by removing agreed to criteria and processes.

Additionally, compensation is also proving to be a roadblock to a deal. The employer wants to roll back compensation and limit salary increases far below inflation.

“Academic Librarians at McMaster are already amongst the lowest paid, making far less than most other Academic Librarians”, says Laura. “The members are only looking for a fair settlement.”

A Conciliation Officer has been appointed and the first conciliation date is scheduled for October 14th.

The parties are negotiating to renew their first collective agreement, the term of which expired July 31, 2015.

MUALA represents 24 Academic Librarians who work at McMaster University’s University Library and Health Sciences Library.  Academic Librarians, who are required to hold advanced academic credentials, play an integral role at research universities, including important responsibilities in support of research, teaching, the preservation, collection and provision of scholarly materials, as well as involvement in independent scholarly activity.

Contact: Laura Banfield, MUALA President,

Bargaining Update #3

At our well-attended General Membership meeting on August 27th, the Bargaining Team provided a detailed update of bargaining so far, which is summarized below.

The Team met with the employer over several days in July, and a number of items have been signed off.   It is our understanding that the employer will table a compensation package when we meet again on September 14th.

Unfortunately, the employer’s many concessionary proposals are a serious roadblock to reaching a deal.  While not all of these proposals have been discussed, they do remain on the table.  For example, with these proposals, the employer seeks to:

  • delete the requirement to use a Search Committee in the hiring process and the inclusion of members on the Committee
  • delete substantial portions of procedures and criteria associated with promotions and evaluations
  • delete the right not to do the work of other striking or locked-out employees
  • exclude contributions to MUALA as professional service
  • delete most MUALA rights to release time to engage in union activities
  • exclude work with external organizations as part of academic service

If the association agreed to these concessions, our working conditions would be seriously degraded and the employer would have almost complete discretion to hire, to assign merit pay, to evaluate performance, and to promote.  We are already among the lowest paid academic librarians in the country, and these proposals would compound our position in relation to other librarians by making us among the worst in regards to academic rights.  All other collective agreements pertaining to Academic Librarians echo to some degree the principal that as “academic staff, librarians have the right and obligation to participate fully in academic affairs.” *

McMaster’s Mission and Vision statement declares that the University values “integrity, quality, inclusiveness and teamwork in everything we do.” ** We insist that the employer live up to its own principles and rescind this erosion of our academic, professional, and employment rights.

The MUALA Bargaining Team continues to work towards ensuring that our members get a fair and reasonable agreement.  Thank you for your support and please contact us if you have any comments or questions.

MUALA Bargaining Team: Laura Banfield (President and Chief Negotiator), Neera Bhatnagar, Rick Stapleton

Bargaining Update #2

The bargaining teams for MUALA and the university employer met as scheduled on July 22-24 and 27-31.  Jeff McKeil, CAUT Assistant Executive Director, joined us for the first day of bargaining and provided constant and invaluable support throughout the entire 8 days.  As of Friday, July 31, we have recessed for the summer and are scheduling dates in September and October to resume bargaining.

Bargaining has progressed in a collegial and respectful manner as the two bargaining teams have exchanged views and provided revised proposals as we work toward a full and final agreement.  A number of minor and mutually agreed articles have been signed off.  Compensation and benefits have not yet been tabled.

The employer’s incoming proposals sought concessions in many areas, particularly through the elimination of processes that—in our opinion—would lessen employee involvement and increase employer discretion. The employer bargaining team described these proposals as their attempt to recognize MUALA members as professionals by removing all bureaucratic encumbrances between the administration and academic librarians.

The problem, as we pointed out, is that without agreed upon processes and clear rights for MUALA and its members, the employer will have complete discretion. MUALA and its members will have nothing to rely upon to ensure member rights and administrative transparency and accountability.

We further pointed out that while it is true MUALA members are professionals, it is also true that we are part of the academic community, which demands academic rights and involvement.   Having left MUFA in 2010 in order to become a certified union in no way changes that.  These academic rights can only be protected and enforced if they are clearly defined.

We are pleased to report that in response, the employer’s bargaining team agreed fully that MUALA members are part of McMaster’s academic community and our status has not changed because we chose to exercise our Charter right to certify as a union.

However, concessionary proposals remain on the table that limit MUALA members’ rights.  As we work through all the proposals, we are cautiously optimistic that we may reach a fair and reasonable collective agreement this fall.

MUALA Bargaining Team: Laura Banfield (President and Chief Negotiator), Neera Bhatnagar, Rick Stapleton

Bargaining Update #1

A meeting  was held with the University administration bargaining team on June 18 to exchange in-going proposal packages. (Please note, monetary proposals were not exchanged.) We have now completed our review of the administration’s package (which included consulting with our CAUT advisor), and our position and the administration’s position are rather far apart in certain key areas.
Bargaining will begin in earnest on July 22 and will continue, at least initially, until the end of the month.
MUALA Bargaining Team: Laura Banfield (President and Chief Negotiator), Neera Bhatnagar, Rick Stapleton