After 16 months of tense negotiations between the McGill administration and the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA), the two parties reached a settlement on March 26.
MUNACA, which represents over 1,700 workers across the two McGill campuses, voted 667 to 127 in their General Assembly (GA) held last Thursday to accept the University’s final proposal – a roughly 83 per cent approval rate.
The final settlement, submitted to both parties on March 25 by the government-appointed conciliator Robert Dupuis, represented a compromise between the two parties.
“We’re pleased that the negotiations have come to an end,” said Lynne Gervais, Associate Vice-Principal of Human Resources. “The workers of MUNACA are a vital part of the University community.”
MUNACA, however, was less enthusiastic.
“It [was] an arduous fight. I would have liked more for our members, but unfortunately there were a lot of other factors in play,” said MUNACA president Maria Ruocco.
Since the GA vote approving the proposal, Ruocco has also said several times, “It is without enthusiasm that we accept this offer.”
As it stands, the collective bargaining agreement will provide MUNACA members with a nine per cent pay increase over three years, and will honour the promise of night and weekend premiums, among other things. This contract will be valid until November 30, 2010.
Professor Anthony Masi, Provost of the University, saw the MUNACA agreement as a significant step toward McGill’s efforts to cut $12- to $15-million from its budget while minimizing the impact on staff.
“We will do everything in our power to prevent layoffs, and all the suggestions we have received [from the town halls] will help. But it is possible that as positions become available, replacement will be on a case-by-case basis. Where possible, we will also have to cut back on casual and temporary employment,” Masi wrote in an email to The Daily.
Masi maintained that administrative management of hiring in the economic downturn will have little to no impact on students.
“Now is the time to reassess the things we do and how we do them with the objective of providing long-term savings without sacrificing quality of McGill’s educational offerings, extra-curricular activities, and research programs,” he wrote.
According to Robert Comeau, the University’s negotiations spokesperson, because MUNACA has already missed two of the pay-upgrade deadlines, the changes will be applied retroactively using December 2007 and 2008 salary figures. The final adjustment will be made in June 2010.
These terms are a significant downgrade from what MUNACA originally asked for. In September 2008, MUNACA wanted a 13 per cent pay increase over four years and premiums for members who work nights and weekends.
At that time, the University rejected the proposal, and negotiations came to halt for several months in the fall after a second suggestion of a ten percent increase over three years was denied by the University.
The next counter-offer came in December 2008, when the University proposed an 8.5 per cent pay increase over three years – nearly the proposal offered on March 25, which MUNACA accepted.
With contracts settled for the next 15 months, Ruocco said MUNACA is looking to the future.
“With elections coming up [for MUNACA], hopefully the members will vote in a team that is strong, a team with a plan for the future,” Ruocco said.