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MUNACA workers worry potential strike will cause financial instability

Tension between administration, execs, and workers strains negotiations

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A set of McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) union members are unwilling to strike as a potential pressure tactic if their personal financial security will be compromised.

With contract negotiations set to resume Friday, MUNACA executives said they are working to reconcile workers’ demands with the University’s proposals’ and acknowledged that a motion to strike may become a reality if the negotiations prove unfruitful.

Maria Ruoco, MUNACA president, said she has not ruled out the possibility of a strike as a strategic move.

“If that’s where this takes us, then that’s where we’re willing to go,” she said.

Some of MUNACA’s 1,800 members, however, stated that they cannot strike because of financial and familial realities.

One MUNACA executive, who asked to remain anonymous, noted that certain employees are getting nervous because the cost of living over the summer increased drastically, as oil and basic food prices jumped.

“[My colleague] can’t afford a strike; she’s panicked. she’s got a four- year-old son and her husband can’t work right now,” explained another member of MUNACA. “If people are too weak to stand up for themselves initially, then eventually they’ll never be able to.”

She pointed to the painful paradox facing MUNACA workers: those who have the most to gain from the strike can’t afford it, and as a result those employees oppose the strike.

“[The possibility of a strike] is scary especially after watching what they did with the TAs. I’m prepared for the strike, I’ve done the calculations, but I wouldn’t vote for it,” said one clerical worker, who has worked for McGill since 1974.

She acknowledged a strike could offer benefits to younger employees, but claimed she could not personally support it because she would never make up the loss of income on a $200- a-week strike salary in time for her retirement.

The relationship between MUNACA and the administration has been strained since last December when the University withdrew its initial proposal to improve wages, claiming Quebec’s demands for universities to maintain balanced budgets by 2010 constrained them.

MUNACA’s special General Assembly (GA) on August 28 failed to put a strike motion to vote due to a fire alarm interruption. MUNACA members then voted down their September 2 GA motion to accept the University’s contract proposal for a 12 per cent pay increase along with a $300 signing bonus for employees in the top quarter.

Still, many of the MUNACA employees insist that they maintain loyalties to McGill.

“These negotiations aren’t about being dissatisfied with our jobs” said another union member.

“We are very dedicated to our jobs and to the students. This is about being treated fairly and with respect. Are we under-appreciated? Absolutely. But we love our jobs.”