Prospective students visiting McGill’s Open House on Sunday, January 25, may have noticed a tangled mass of demonstrators at the Roddick Gates.
Hundreds of members from the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) responded to a January 21 executive bulletin urging members to prove the seriousness of their cause by using the Open House to draw attention to their search for a collective agreement with the University.
“Let us show the University that we are willing to give up our time on a Sunday to demonstrate how unhappy we are with the state of negotiations,” said Maria Ruocco, the union president.
The demonstrators picketed the Roddick Gates between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and the demonstration was covered by CTV News at 6 p.m.
“It was to expose ourselves, we just want to make more people aware of our cause,” said Ruocco.
Mookie Kideckel, U1 History student and Daily contributor, volunteered at the Open House for the History faculty and witnessed the demonstration.
“I thought they were on strike when I first saw them, but they were just demonstrating,” said Kideckel. “They were walking in circles. I didn’t know what it was, but I got closer [I noticed] it was MUNACA. Cars were honking, [but] it seemed friendly.”
MUNACA has been searching for a new collective agreement with the University for the past 13 months. The union now has a mandate from its members to use pressure tactics up to and including a general strike. The University has promised to keep open the services that MUNACA employees operate in the event of a strike, although it has noted that some services will be scaled back. Both the University and MUNACA employ a negotiator who is working with a third-party conciliator to reach a settlement.
Ruocco stressed that McGill and the union have long agreed on every point in negotiation except salary increases.
“Basically, all we want are fair wage increases. We’re hoping that the University comes back to the table with a fair proposal.”
Where the Univesity is currently offering 8.5 per cent over three years, MUNACA is requesting ten per cent.
According to McGill Human Resources’s web site, budget constraints are complicating an agreement with MUNACA’s demands.
“It is important to note that Quebec universities, including McGill University, are facing significant budget deficits which the Ministry of Education has directed must be eliminated within the next three years,” reads their web site.
Neither McGill Human Resources nor the MUNACA web site have updated details regarding the negotiations since December.
But Ruocco said that their message has not changed.
“We want a fair collective agreement and that’s always been the message that we’re giving the administration.”