Commentary  Negotiate in good faith

Despite their expressed commitment to follow Quebec labour laws and negotiate in good faith to reach a fair settlement with MUNACA, the McGill administration has demonstrated that this is not the case.

On the first day of the strike, the University fired three course lecturers who were also MUNACA members. The dismissals were justified by a rare interpretation of the Quebec Labour Code, which says that an employee holding two positions in the University cannot be on strike in one position and employed in another. Moreover, McGill has a history of using this code in an anti-union way: it was implemented during a TA strike in 2008.

Several casual workers in the University have also reported that they’ve been asked to do the work of striking MUNACA members. This constitutes scab labour and undermines the strikers.

Equally alarmingly, the McGill administration has been threatening the salaries of certain professors who try to express solidarity with MUNACA workers. In a recent interview with the Daily, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson said that the relocation of classes would not be an issue during the strike. Professors wishing to avoid crossing picket lines by teaching off-campus would be able to do so. However, Mendelson later retracted his statement. The administration has, in fact, been threatening the pay of professors who choose to relocate, citing a McGill policy document and arguing that teaching off-campus represents a “dereliction of duty.”

These anti-labour practices, among the figures currently in McGill’s administration, are not exclusive to this year. In 2007, while working as VP Services at Concordia, Michael Di Grappa, who is now McGill’s VP (Administration and Finance) and is intimately involved in negotiations, was ordered by the Quebec Labour Board to formally apologize to the Concordia University Support Staff Union after contacting union members directly during a 2007 strike while he was VP Services at Concordia. His actions directly violated Article 12 of the Labour Code, which forbids employers from trying to influence and have contact with union members during negotiations. It doesn’t bode well for the current negotiations that someone with such a marked history of anti-union activity should be so intimately involved with the negotiations on the administration’s side.

All these actions, past and present, are starkly anti-union. As the effects of the strike take a heavy physical and mental toll on staff and students, we urge the administration to negotiate with MUNACA in good faith and to reach a fair agreement as soon as possible.