After three years of negotiations, the McGill Course Lecturers & Instructors Union (MCLIU) reached its first collective agreement with the University during a Special General Assembly (SGA), held on September 18.
Originally certified in August 2011, and then re-certified in November 2013, MCLIU has worked toward harmonizing the working conditions of McGill lecturers and instructors in affiliation with the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) and the Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec (FNEEQ).
MCLIU’s collective agreement, which was ratified at the SGA with a 96 per cent majority vote, recognizes the implementation of grievance and progressive disciplinary procedures. Employees will also be given seniority in allocation of courses, paid sick leave, and parental leave rights, as well as associated benefits equivalent to full-time teachers.
“Our new work agreement […] represents substantial gains for our members,” said MCLIU President Raad Jassim. “The members will benefit from significant salary increases over the three years of the agreement, as well as the retroactive pay from January 2015. It should be noted that the course lecturers in this university in Montreal were the lowest paid in the province of Quebec.”
MCLIU Interim Communication and Mobilization Officer Jeanette Wong spoke on the obstacles the union faced while attempting negotiations with McGill. “When we asked for something, the [Administration] might say no, or refuse to really talk about it. If [they say] a complete no, we are facing a wall,” said Wong.
Despite a majority vote of 96 per cent and a successful collective agreement in the four years since accreditation, Wong says this agreement is only a foundation to build further improvements for working conditions upon. Wong added, “96 per cent is [a] high percentage, and you [could] say ‘Oh! we can celebrate now,’ but it is [just] our first collective agreement. Before that there was nothing […] so we just made one big giant step.”
“[The ratification] means the members […] have at least the foundation of a clear and transparent system. In that sense, yes, we have a full agreement […] but there are still things we need to negotiate in the future. […] The basis of foundation was really needed and we approved this foundation,” said Wong.
Increased benefits for course lecturers and instructors
Wong also commented on how the improvement of job security for teachers would increase efficiency in the workplace, thus benefitting the university as a whole.
“It means a lot. It means to all McGill people, to the students, to the whole [of] McGill, that you see an improved quality of education. […] The instructors and course lecturers […] feel more secure at their work. They feel no threat from their employment. They can focus that energy to do research to develop professionally, to focus on what they do best: teaching,” Wong said.
Wong further discussed how the collective agreement is also a gesture of recognition for teachers, who make an important contribution to McGill, stating that “[the collective agreement] also means that these teachers have been recognized as part of McGill. It is important that we’re not just teaching year by year, term by term, without knowing what is coming next.”
MCLIU Vice President and Chair of the Bargaining Committee Ahmad Munir expressed that he expected the agreement to positively impact the education quality for McGill students. Munir also noted that students play an important role in the issue, as all students benefit from a better educational environment, and many students advocate for the Union.
“Our slogan is ‘We Are McGill.’ It is very important that ‘we,’ course lecturers and instructors, contribute [to] the education mission of McGill with peace of mind to pursue our maximum abilities in teaching, research, and professional development. Better working conditions of instructors have a direct impact on the quality of education,” stated Munir.