In a positive development for the University’s relationship with labour unions, both the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) and the Association of McGill University Research Employees (AMURE) have reached a compromise with McGill administration over issues related to the changes in payroll frequency.
The problems initially arose when McGill announced its plan to standardize the pay periods of all McGill employees by changing its payroll schedule to every two weeks, with a payment delay of one pay period. According to information released by McGill Human Resources, this change was meant to make the task of paying McGill employees easier, as the previous system had different employee groups on different pay schedules.
However, unions were unhappy with the change, as the new schedule would have resulted in a two week delay in payment.
“The problem with this delay is the first paycheque we received on January 16 was for work that was done January 1 to 3,” Sean Cory, the president of AMURE, told The Daily in an email. “This would have resulted in skipping almost a full paycheque.”
To make up for the delay in payment, the University offered to issue interest-free loans to employees at the beginning of January to be paid back regularly over the course of the year.
However, this solution still would have created problems for MUNACA and AMURE workers. “The end result would have been salary deductions for almost a year to pay for McGill’s pay frequency change,” noted Cory.
In addition, the fact that the loans offered were interest-free meant that they would be subject to tax, resulting in further loss of wages. The overall effect would have been a loss of $15 per pay period for MUNACA and AMURE employees.
Initially, when confronted with resistance in negotiations from Principal Suzanne Fortier and Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Michael Di Grappa, the unions encouraged their members to submit complaints concerning the payroll delays.
MUNACA and AMURE members filed over 300 complaints in a court case planned for December 2013, but they were withdrawn when the compromise was reached at the end of November.
Cory told The Daily that the basis of the complaints was initially that “we felt that unions were targeted as they were the only ones that were having this delay introduced and thus salary deductions.”
However, according to Doug Sweet, McGill’s director of internal communications, both unionized and non-unionized employees faced this change.
Just a few weeks before the changes were scheduled to take place, MUNACA, AMURE, and the McGill administration were finally able to come to a compromise. McGill agreed to allow workers to pay back their interest-free loans when they leave McGill, instead of deducting the loan from the workers’ paychecks.
“It resulted in an almost seamless transition to bi-weekly pays with a delay,” said Cory. “It is a difficult time financially for the University. We are not sure what the real benefit [of] a two week delay is to the University or whether that justifies this loan of hundreds of thousands of dollars, but we recognize that a two week delay in pay is essentially standard in large companies.”
“I think a lot of it got resolved once the upper administration understood what kind of impact it would have on our membership,” Kevin Whittaker, president of MUNACA, told The Daily. He added that the complaints were withdrawn “because the University came to an agreement [and understood] that what they were doing would be a hardship for our members and they adjusted the process [so that it] suited us.”