Two months ago, we took off our MUNACA buttons and welcomed back over 1,700 employees to campus after a semester-long strike, dedicated in part to gaining greater protection of the medical benefits workers pay their salaries into every year. But now, McGill has announced that all McGill employees retiring after May 2016 will have to pay 70 per cent of their medical expenses, along with 100 per cent of their dental expenses. Currently, both these expenses are split 50-50 with McGill.
The administration made this decision unilaterally last July, which MUNACA alleges violated the contract in place at the time. That contract mandated the administration to consult with the union before making decisions on benefits. This change (egregious as it may seem) actually represents a concession on the part of the administration – who originally scheduled these cuts for last month – for current and future retirees. However, this hardly makes a difference for MUNACA members being denied their benefits.
As soon as MUNACA signs the new contract, employee groups will be receiving more decision-making power over possible changes to pensions and benefits – effective as soon as MUNACA signs its new contract – but the administration’s actions did not even follow the regulations outlined in the old contract. This is not the first time the administration has clawed back on benefis; in January 2010, McGill reduced its contribution to worker pensions by $1 million.
It is clear that McGill’s administration is taking liberties with the significant institutional power it possesses, evidenced both by this incident and their voiding the results of CKUT and QPIRG’s referenda results last semester. The repeated dismissal of democratic process at McGill is of major concern, especially when it puts the future livelihoods of McGill’s longest-serving employees at risk. Concessions after the fact do not make up for a refusal to consult in the first place.
There was a lot of talk about restoring trust after the strike ended, yet it is hard for McGill students and employees to trust an administration that does not listen to the community it should be serving.
The strike may be over, but its instigating factors continue today, for MUNACA and all campus employees. Students should dust off their MUNACA buttons and unite in a call for greater campus democracy.