Commentary  March with Munaca

One week ago today, The McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA), which represents more than 1,700 workers, including library staff, lab technicians, and registration staff, commenced a general strike after a prolonged and frustrating series of negotiations with the McGill administration.

While the strike has caused inconvenience for students, The Daily stands in support of MUNACA, and urges all students to do so. These service interruptions are not the fault of the MUNACA workers but,  rather,  of the McGill administration, which forced MUNACA to strike. By refusing to consider MUNACA’s demands, McGill is essentially holding the university’s functions hostage.

Although the union has been in negotiations with the university since November 2010, no progress has been made on their primary issues. The union’s demands, such as protection for pensions and a wage increase that would be equal to the increase in the cost of living, are reasonable and equal to the benefits and salaries that other Montreal universities give to similar employees. It takes a McGill employee 37 years to reach their wage ceiling while it takes those at UQAM, Concordia, and Université de Montréal 3 to 14 years to reach theirs. MUNACA’s decision to strike was the only way for these employees to stand up against the administration’s unfair treatment of its members.

Student solidarity with the union is significant to the strike’s success. But there are many ways students can unintentionally harm the union’s cause. For example, it is offensive to cross the picket lines. Try to walk with the line rather than through it, or take an alternate route to get to your destination. Crossing the picket line shows a symbolic crack in the union’s ranks, and we should be standing shoulder to shoulder with the picketers instead of brushing past them. It’s also important for student workers to be wary of taking on the duties of striking MUNACA members, as it is illegal under Quebec anti-scab laws for the University to ask or hire employees to do the work of absent MUNACA members. If you are asked to do so, contact your union immediately with information.

Students choosing to stand with MUNACA join a host of supporters on and off campus who have already expressed their solidarity. These groups include the campus unions: AMUSE, AMURE, AGSEM, and the SSMU Executive. In addition, a group of professors from nine departments within the Faculty of Arts recently formed the McGill Faculty Labour Association Group in order to better support the union. Tuesday morning, two MPs elected last May – Charmaine Borg and Lauren Liu – visited the picket line to show solidarity as former McGill students and, in Borg’s case, as a former AMUSE Labour Relations Officer.

In fact, showing up at the picket lines is one of the most effective ways you can show your support as a student. Spare picket signs as well as green MUNACA buttons are available on site. The MUNACA website advises students to e-mail the administration to express support for the union’s bargaining demands and for a swift resolution to the strike.

The strike involves more than just the union and the administration – it tangibly affects the services that students need on campus and ideologically parallels students’ struggles against tuition hikes and austerity measures. The McGill Daily’s editorial board endorses MUNACA in their strike and asks McGill students to stand in solidarity.