McGill secures second injunction against striking workers

Quebec construction workers ally with MUNACA

McGill has secured a second injunction against the striking McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA), restricting the union’s ability to picket outside of senior administrators’ homes.

The union, which has been on strike since September 1, has been picketing outside the homes of Principal Heather Munroe-Blum, Provost Anthony Masi, and Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Michael Di Grappa.

The newest injunction limits picketers to groups of three people, and the group must keep a minimum distance of 25 metres from the residences.

The University secured its first injunction against MUNACA on September 23, which limited the union to picketing in groups of no more than 15 people, and kept groups four metres from various McGill properties. This injunction was recently extended to January 21, 2012.

“Effectively we really can’t picket there anymore,” said MUNACA VP Finance David Kalant. “We look at it as still another way of shutting down our freedom of speech.”

Di Grappa said 10 to 15 MUNACA members picketed outside his house last Tuesday.

“I think it’s very unpleasant when they picket private homes, and this does absolutely nothing to advance the discussions at the table,” he said.

When asked if he considered it appropriate to picket outside private homes, Kalant replied: “In this case, yes.”

“We were not making excessive noise. We were not impeding them in any way from getting in and out of their houses. We were not insulting them, we were not acting in any aggressive way. We were saying, you know, ‘We’re here, and you can’t ignore us,’” he said.

Kalant added that MUNACA picketers also dropped explanatory flyers in the mailboxes of neighbouring homes.

Thursday’s second injunction also sets limits on picketing at the workplaces of members of the McGill Board of Governors (BoG). According to Kalant, picketers have to stay ten metres away from the workplaces of BoG members. He noted that the impact of these restrictions vary depending on the particular workplace.

“If [they’ve] got an office on the 25th floor, we can certainly be picketing outside the building because we’re well outside ten metres from their workplace,” explained Kalant.

Also on Thursday, at least 300 MUNACA members formed a picket line at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) Glen Campus construction site. Workers at the site, members of the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ) – Quebec’s largest labour federation – refused to cross picket lines, effectively shutting down work at the site, which is one of the largest work sites in Montreal.

In an email to all McGill staff and students that day, Di Grappa called the picket an “unnecessary, provocative action.”

“This doesn’t accelerate in any way the rhythm of the discussions, which, anyway, is set by the conciliator in conjunction with the parties,” Di Grappa said to The Daily.

“This is something that has absolutely nothing to do with people outside of McGill, and we would encourage the union to focus their energies on the discussions at the table,” he added.

Kalant said MUNACA contacted the FTQ before picketing at the site.

“They were all in support of us and our cause,” said Kalant. “Again, it was to show McGill that we’re here, they can’t shut us up, and we want them to come to the negotiating table and start talking about the serious issues.”

When asked on Friday morning whether the University was seeking an injunction for the MUHC site, Di Grappa replied that McGill was “not responsible” for the MUHC site.

“The MUHC is a separate legal entity. You would have to ask them about what they intend to do for their site,” said Di Grappa.

Kalant, however, told The Daily on Friday afternoon that McGill applied for an injunction regarding the MUHC site late last week, noting that “we haven’t heard what the specifics are or what the final ruling is.”

MUNACA rally draws big names

Brian Topp, a candidate for NDP leadership and McGill alumnus, spoke at a MUNACA rally on Friday at the intersection of McGill College and Sherbrooke.

Topp spoke about both the picketing at the MUHC site and outside senior administrator’s homes.

“I think it’s a sign that it’s time to get a settlement, it’s a sign that it’s time to bring this dispute to an end. It’s time to get back to the table and find a reasonable settlement,” he said.

“People have the right to demonstrate in public spaces, and other people have the right to decide whether or not to cross picket lines. And, so, a one-day protest at that work settlement [MUHC] didn’t harm anybody, it sent a strong message to McGill,” he continued.

Topp was joined at the rally by Maude Barlow, chairperson for the Council of Canadians, and Michel Arsenault, president of the FTQ.

“Your fight is our fight, and I deeply thank you very, very much for having the courage to stay with this. I know it’s tough to do this for eight weeks,” Barlow said in her speech.

In his speech, Arsenault reiterated the FTQ’s continued support for MUNACA.

“Starting yesterday…you will not be alone in this battle,” he said. “We are going to last a day longer than McGill, a day longer and win this battle.”