McGill’s non-academic workers set up picket lines early Wednesday morning around exits from the Jacques-Cartier Bridge.
The McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) has been on strike since September 1.
Union members began picketing near the bridge at about 7:30 a.m., and MUNACA VP Finance David Kalant estimated that there were between 500 and 600 union members participating.
Picket lines formed on de Lorimier at the intersections with de Maisonneuve and Ontario.
“We were making our presence [felt] there. We would also occasionally cross the streets and we were also trying to hand out flyers to the cars when they were stopped at the light,” Kalant told The Daily on Wednesday. He added that police were on the scene “almost immediately.”
“They were there very quickly and directing us not to cross on the red lights. So, we obeyed and we crossed where we could on green lights, back and forth, just being visible, and overall it was quite civil,” said Kalant.
The Montreal Gazette reported that traffic was slowed for the duration of the union’s picketing.
According to Kalant, the delay was minor.
“It didn’t really hinder traffic that much and it didn’t cause any serious problems, but it did get a lot of attention from people,” he said.
“It’s probably the only bridge onto Montreal that you have good access to…and we knew there’d be a lot of traffic and so there’d be a lot of exposure and the ability to publicize the fact that we have been pushed further and further away from McGill University in terms of trying to get our message across in our picketing,” Kalant said, referring to the three injunctions that McGill has won against the union.
The union’s picketing activities are legally required to operate within the restrictions outlined in the injunctions. The restrictions limit picketing around university property, the workplaces of members of McGill’s Board of Governors, the homes of senior McGill administrators, and the McGill University Health Centre construction site.
Kalant said that union members left the bridge at around 9 a.m. and convened at Papineau metro station before walking back to McGill’s downtown campus along Maisonneuve.
“The police did a road closure of the street for us so we handed flyers out along the way,” he said.
McGill issued a statement to the media in response to the union’s activities.
“We think it’s unfortunate that the union has chosen to use this dispute to affect others who aren’t connected with it in any way,” the statement reads.
Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Michael Di Grappa was unavailable for comment, as McGill and MUNACA were in conciliation meetings on Wednesday. The two parties are scheduled to meet again on Friday.
Both McGill and MUNACA informed The Daily that “monetary issues” – wage scales, benefits and pensions – would be discussed at the table in the current round of negotiations.
MUNACA President Kevin Whittaker spoke to The Daily on Tuesday, before negotiations began for the week.
“Right now we’re starting to discuss our primary issues, which are wage scales, and our protections for the benefits and pension,” he explained.
“And we have been told that we should make ourselves available for the weekend – this was coming from the conciliator,” continued Whittaker.
“We are hopeful that we will at least be able to discuss these issues and make it clear to the conciliator what our concerns are and why we are out on strike, because it is these reasons that have caused this strike,” he added.
McGill’s statement explained the University’s position on negotiations in light of the introduction of monetary matters into conciliation.
“We are at the table [Wednesday] and again on Friday, with monetary issues on the table, and we think everyone should really be focused on negotiations right now because that is how this is going to be resolved.”