As the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) strike enters its third week, students, administrators, and faculty at the Macdonald campus are feeling the absence of the approximately 90 clerical, teaching, and research employees who work there.
At the entrance to the campus, which houses McGill’s Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the School of Dietetics and Nutrition, a picket line has formed every day since the strike began on September 1. The group is made up of MUNACA members who work at Macdonald Campus, as well as downtown employees who live in the West Island.
David Kalant, MUNACA VP Finance, explained that the impact felt at Macdonald is similar to that at McGill’s downtown campus.
“I have no good way of comparing the campuses, but I suspect it’s similar. In both cases the normal functioning of the University is impossible without us,” he said.
Macdonald’s Career Planning Service (CaPS) office is one of the many services at the campus affected by the strike. Callers to offices are temporarily being greeted with a recorded message that redirects them to the downtown receptionist.
Susan Smith, the Office Coordinator for CaPS, expressed regret over having to leave her job and did not see a fast resolution as likely.
“I’m not under any illusions – this is going to go on for awhile,” she told The Daily. “I’m not seeing any lack of resolve on the picket line, and I think it’s just a sad situation. All we need to do is get together and talk.”
Some picketers, although reluctant to comment on the strike, pointed to the suspension of inter-library loan and difficulties in Macdonald’s IT department as signs that their absence is having an effect on campus services.
Students who take classes at Macdonald expressed differing views on how the strike is affecting them, including some who said they haven’t noticed much of a difference at all.
Elodie, an Agricultural and Environmental Sciences student, said, “It hasn’t really affected me in any way in particular. I can still go to class and do my labs,” although she did add that she had to wait longer than expected for her doctor’s appointment. Like many offices on both campuses, the Macdonald Student Services Center’s hours have been cut as a result of the strike.
Chris Borkent, a graduate student in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences, said his day-to-day life was unaffected, but expressed concern about who would handle his thesis submission if the strike continued into December.
“I know that that paperwork stuff is being handled by some administrators here,” Borkent said, “but of course they’ve got to do it for everybody and I won’t be the only person submitting, so it might get a little snaky.”
Sunny, a U3 Arts student taking a course at the Macdonald Campus, explained that she supports MUNACA and stood on the picket line with the strikers for a day, but that she is concerned that her fellow students do not appreciate the strike’s significance.
“I’ve been quite ashamed of [McGill] University during the strike, and with the lack of solidarity from other staff at McGill,” she said. “I was hoping for more support, and I’ve seen none – if [anything] I’ve seen sort of anti-strike attitudes, which I find really scary.”
In an interview with The Daily, chief technician at the Montreal Neurological Institute and MUNACA member Farah Jalili was asked by a passerby why MUNACA members don’t work for themselves or another university, rather than go on strike.
“McGill goes from 20 to 19, 18 to 17 [in university rankings],” answered Jalili. “We are part of that strength, that McGill is ranking higher and higher,” she said.
Her companion, Aghdas Zamani, a course coordinator for the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, characterized the strike as an unfortunate necessity.
“MUNACA is not pro-strike, and we do not want to put McGill into chaos or shut the University down. McGill put us here. They didn’t give us our rights for a long, long time and we decided that enough is enough.”