At 6 a.m. on September 1st, the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) went on strike. MUNACA represents 1,700 non-academic workers at McGill who have been engaged in a lengthy struggle with the McGill administration. The union includes library staff, Service Point employees, residence security guards, lab technicians, and many more workers.
Their decision to strike is motivated by the fact that their collective agreement is less favourable than those of their counterparts at other universities in Montreal. MUNACA members have a lower wage ceiling than similar workers at other universities and must work longer to reach this low wage ceiling. Furthermore, the McGill administration has attacked the workers’ pensions and benefits by cutting $1 million from their pension plan. The administration’s disregard for the well-being of these workers has been made apparent through their failure to come to an agreement after 23 collective bargaining negotiations since January. MUNACA members have responded appropriately to this disregard by going on strike. Now students must respond as well.
The student community should follow a twofold strategy in expressing their solidarity with MUNACA members. First, students should seek to increase the stress placed upon the system by the MUNACA workers’ absence. A strike’s purpose is to stop as much work as possible from being completed in an attempt to force the administration to accept the strikers’ demands. By abandoning their positions, the workers place a burden upon the system that can only be relieved through their renewed presence.
To aid MUNACA’s objectives, students can flood Service Point with appointments or carry out strategic mass loans at McGill libraries in order to maximize this burden. These kinds of actions can cause inconveniences for students, but that is exactly the purpose. Without inconveniences, strikes would rarely be successful. These hassles are definitely worth it when you consider that the lifelong salaries and pensions of workers are at stake. Furthermore, it’s critical to note that the extra burden doesn’t actually fall upon student workers because it’s illegal for the administration to ask them to work extended hours or do jobs previously done by MUNACA workers.
The second component of student solidarity should come in the form of mass public support for MUNACA members. This means joining the picket lines, emailing administration figures such as Heather Munroe-Blum to let them know that the students stand behind the strikers – and most importantly – sending a clear message to the media. As the school ultimately exists for the students, a divided student body would be destructive to the chances of a successful struggle for MUNACA members. The administration and the media will likely try to emphasize disturbances created by the strike in order to antagonize MUNACA members. Students must publicly reject this narrative. For example, when you’re waiting in a lengthy line at Service Point during this strike, remember that it is a result of the McGill administration refusing to grant their employees fair conditions.
Essentially, McGill students must not be complicit in the unjust treatment of MUNACA members. McGill has no problem with granting deans and administration executives exorbitant salaries in the name of competition, but evidently does not hold the same standards for MUNACA members. MUNACA workers are essential to ensuring that day-to-day life at McGill runs smoothly. As such, the least McGill students can do is return the favour and help ensure a successful transition to better salaries and pensions for these workers.
Davide Mastracci is a U1 Joint Honours student in Political Science and History. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.