Last Friday, McGill filed a provisional injunction against the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA). The injunction, which lists seven individuals in addition to MUNACA and their regional union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), restricts the union’s picketing activity. It is valid through October 3, when McGill and MUNACA will be in court for a hearing as to whether the injunction will be extended.
The injunction lists three affidavits filed by Robert Comeau, director of labour and employee relations, Pierre Barbarie, associate director of security services, and Christopher Carson, operations manager for security services. Michael Di Grappa, Vice Principal (Administration and Finance), said that the injunction was “filed on behalf of McGill University, not the individuals.”
There is also reference to events on September 22. Kevin Whittaker, President of MUNACA, explained that the event cited was a protest that MUNACA held in the Durocher area.
According to Whittaker, the administration “mentioned that some students felt threatened and that one student was hit by a flagpole – which I’m sure he [just] got tapped.”
September 22 was also the date of a student sit-in outside of Senate.
Under the injunction, MUNACA picketers are not allowed to occupy three restricted areas, which cover most of downtown campus. There are also over 42 locations listed where picketing is prohibited, including the Montreal General Hospital, Solin Hall, and the McCord Museum. Picketers must be four metres from the entries and exits of McGill property.
There are also noise limits outlined, including a stipulation that no microphones, speakers, or stereos are allowed within 25 metres of McGill property.
MUNACA called a general meeting for members on Wednesday, “to inform our members that we will have to be readjusting our strategies due to this injunction,” said Whittaker, who estimated that 1,400 members attended.
“Because things are not moving as smoothly or as quickly as we would hope at the conciliation level, we will be putting pressure on McGill and the community to move things along quicker and to actually sit down and properly negotiate with us,” he added.
In response to McGill’s actions, the student mobilization group, Mob Squad, organized an emergency action on Monday. The group, which grew to more than 40 students, sat at the Y-intersection and read the text of the injunction aloud.
McGill Security arrived shortly after, and multiple staff members surrounded the group, which did not restrict the movement of pedestrians or vehicles on campus.
Derek Tyrrell, a student participating in the demonstration, explained that security guards asked organizers for student IDs and threatened to call the Montreal police.
Students pointed to Part IV, Article 25 of the Student Handbook of Rights and Responsibilities, which states that “Every student enjoys within the University the freedoms of opinion, of expression and of peaceful assembly.”
The group later marched to the James Administration building. Provost Anthony Masi and Di Grappa, attempting to enter the building, turned to address students.
Masi began talking to students about what he called the “pension crisis” at McGill. When students questioned his presentation of MUNACA’s wage demands, he told the crowd that they did not have the facts of the negotiation.
“Keep repeating falsehoods. It makes you feel good,” he told the group.
Di Grappa also addressed some of the students, who explained that they had been sitting in peacefully on campus.
“You don’t have the right to demonstrate on campus,” Di Grappa told them, and questioned whether the use of a megaphone and sit-in at Senate were peaceful, to which students in the crowd answered in the affirmative. Former Daily Design and Production editor Sheehan Moore, a student in the crowd, taped the interaction. The video was also featured on a CTV report yesterday.
In an interview with The Daily the next day, Di Grappa contradicted his previous statement and cited university policy. “As you know, there’s a right to peaceful assembly and demonstrations on campus so long as they don’t disrupt work in the classroom or other work going on at the University,” he said.
SSMU VP External Joël Pedneault, a participant in the demonstration, said that he felt Masi and Di Grappa’s actions showed “a total lack of professionalism.”
“[I] was surprised and shocked by the degree of bravado with which they walked into the action…and proceeded to not just debate but yell at students… I don’t think it’s acceptable,” Pedneault said.
Yesterday, Mob Squad organized a teach-in at the Y-intersection with over 150 students, teaching assistants, and professors in attendance.
“It certainly raises our morale in our membership, knowing that the students and the faculty and other McGill community members are out protesting on our behalf,” Whittaker said.
When asked for a comment on the event, Di Grappa spoke to how he sees the labour dispute being resolved.
“[The strike is] not going to be resolved by rallies and demonstrations, it’s going to be resolved at the negotiation table, and so we encourage the union to be available to continue to negotiate,” he said.
Report on replacement workers
Last Friday also saw the release of a report by the Ministry of Labour on their inspections of McGill. The inspector, Thomas Hayden, alleged that Section 109.1 of the Quebec Labour Code was not respected in at least 15 cases.
Jérôme Turcq, PSAC’s executive vice-president for Quebec, addressed the findings of the report.
“This is really a shame. For an organization that actually prides themselves for being a place where you form the future Prime Ministers, the future judges and the future lawyers, to disregard legislation in that sense… I think this is really shameful,” he said in an interview with The Daily and the McGill Tribune.
“I have no doubt, no doubt, that McGill has used scabs. If there would be an instance of one or two cases, I’d be very careful with what I said, not with what the inspector has found,” he added.
An email sent to staff and students from Di Grappa states that “McGill disputes these findings in each and every case.”
Di Grappa declined to cite specific examples to The Daily, explaining that court hearings on the matter begin Thursday. The email states that McGill has “found errors of fact” in a number of cases in the report.
Whittaker said that neither the report nor the injunction affected conciliation meetings on Monday. McGill and MUNACA will meet next at the negotiation table on Friday.
— with files from Erin Hudson, Michael Lee-Murphy, and Sheehan Moore