Commentary  Editorial: McGill’s union issues

We thought that MUNACA’s General Assembly (GA) last Thursday would culminate with the approval of a strike mandate. Instead, it ended with a blaring fire alarm and an unfinished agenda.

The labour union, which represents McGill’s non-academic staff – including library assistants, technicians, nurses, secretaries, grounds keepers, and others – has been negotiating its contract with the University since December. But only when a strike seemed like a real possibility did McGill finally pull itself together, upping its original offer of a 10.5 per cent pay increase over four years to 12 per cent last Thursday. On Tuesday, the union rejected the offer.

The proposed salary increase is not what MUNACA hoped, and it’s not the 18.5 per cent increase that McGill offered to professors, but it is an improvement. But the offer came almost a year after negotiations began – and only when a strike was just a fire drill and a single, threatening vote away.

McGill seems to be testing its limits, seeing how little it can offer before facing any true opposition. The last time McGill dared to be so careless with one of its unions, we all suffered. The TA strike, which endured for 11 weeks, had tremendous ramifications: classes were cancelled, professors dazed, lawsuits and grievances filed, students alienated and insulted by their administration’s apathy and its complete disregard for their academic experience. We should avoid a similar situation with our non-academic staff, without whom our campus would crumble.

The University’s behaviour with unions – and their willingness to let negotiations hit the extreme time and time again – is indicative of a serious flaw with this administration. It speaks to their lack of investment in the quality of campus life and student wellbeing. It’s not only these negotiations that are driving us to feel this way; it’s the new event booking policy that bans political and union rallies on campus, and other clamp downs on campus life.

The administration must hang up its cloak as a corporate monster when negotiating with its unions. It must stop investing its funds and time on protracted and unnecessary battles with its unions and begin investing in its students and staff.

MUNACA has not yet approved a strike mandate; it has only rejected the administration’s newest offer, and for now, they’re hoping that action will be extreme enough to inspire change. We urge the administration to change its bargaining tactics before our non-academic staff abandon their posts and head to the picket lines.