As much as I admire McGill’s left-leaning instincts, when it comes to the MUNACA strike, they’ve led us astray. We’ve been seduced by the union’s rhetoric about “fairness” and “equality,” but union workers make exactly what they deserve. Any further demands are pure selfishness.
At the heart of the reasoned debate (I’ll get to the unreasoned debate in a minute) is a misunderstanding of labour markets. Ask any economist: things are worth what people will pay for them. Competition between firms drives wages, not whining and begging. If MUNACA workers are worth more than McGill is paying them, then demand (how badly they’re needed) outstrips supply (how many of them there are), and they should be receiving higher-paying offers elsewhere and leaving in droves. Only then, if they’re scrambling to find employees, does McGill then have a reason to give a pay raise. So if you think you’re underpaid, quit. If you were right, you’ll find a better position soon.
Far be it from me to support “the man” trying to keep the little guy down. I’m generally in favour of sticking up for the underdog, but, face it: in this situation, it’s McGill. MUNACA has the University in a stranglehold. Quebec requires the administration to engage in negotiations with MUNACA no matter what their demands are. They can ask for literally anything (Gold-plated submarines! Diamond-encrusted nametags!) and McGill has to tolerate the dearth of full-time staff until an agreement is reached.
Quebec labour law is flawed. University employees can walk away if they don’t like their contract. Why can’t McGill? An efficient labour law would allow the university to fire every striking worker and give their positions to the hordes of unemployed who would no doubt jump at these overpaid, underskilled jobs.
A strike needs to speak for itself. If one worker refuses to work, he gets fired. If all workers refuse to work, they can ask for what they want, because – here’s the key – they’re valuable enough that firing them all would ruin the employer. Is this the case here? Clearly not. It’s been rough, but the University is still functioning, which means MUNACA workers are not valuable enough that they deserve an increase in their wages.
I’m not sure where students think the money is going to come from. Surely not the government, which is slashing university funding even as enrolment increases. And nobody wants a tuition increase. Well, what then? A pay raise can only come out of the school’s already-shoestring budget. Meeting the union’s demands will put a hole though McGill’s plans to get out of debt and ultimately cripple the University.
Lacking a valid position, MUNACA has opted to make the loudest argument possible. The union has destroyed whatever legitimacy they had left with their shameful, childish tactics, and has glossed it over with irrelevant grandstanding about “free speech” on campus. Nonsense! Free speech isn’t the right to make as much noise as possible, deface buildings, and protest at McGill administrators’ private houses. Nowhere in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is your right to ruin perishable research materials protected.
The most ridiculous thing of all, though, escaped nearly everybody’s notice. McGill was named one of Canada’s top employers this year (see canadastop100.com if you think McGill under-provides for its employees) with – wait for it – financial benefits rated “B+.” I don’t see Concordia, UQAM, or U of M on that list, yet MUNACA insists on reaching parity with them. Alright! Let’s slash their earnings and take away their pensions! Let’s stop supporting them, at the very least. Doing so only serves to reward MUNACA’s bullying tactics and lower the quality of our education.
Thomas Fulton is a U1 Computer Science and Philosophy student. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.