Updated on March 18, 2012.
For the first time this semester, about 250 non-academic workers rallied – this time on campus – to demonstrate their opposition to the delayed signing of MUNACA’s collective agreement with McGill.
The union, which represents approximately 1,700 non-academic support staff, ratified its collective agreement with the University on December 5, 2011 after being on strike for the entire fall semester.
Since the strike ended, MUNACA and McGill have been reviewing the collective agreement’s wording and the interpretation of its new or modified articles. After the process is complete, the agreement must be translated into French, and then the agreement can be signed.
At 12:30 p.m. on Friday, MUNACA members and students gathered near the Roddick Gates before marching through campus to gather outside the James Administration building.
MUNACA President Kevin Whittaker addressed the demonstrators before going into the James building to deliver a letter to Chief of Staff Susan Aberman, who said she would deliver it to Principal Heather Munroe-Blum this weekend. Whittaker called Thursday to make an appointment with the Principal, but she was unavailable.
“I tried to make an appointment to see the Principal because, as you know, it’s Fort Knox now and unless you have an appointment, [and] go through two security barriers; you don’t get into that James Admin building,” he added.
“During the last three months several meetings have taken place and much progress was made, until February 17, 2012. On this date, the Employer introduced an interpretation that departed from a reference to employees…which we agreed to eliminate,” the letter read.
According to Whittaker, the process came to a standstill due to the University’s inclusion of an additional 40 members to a list of employees who would receive modified pay increases in the form of lump sums applicable to their pensions.
The list was agreed on by both parties in November 2011 and consisted of 80 members, who are unable to have their maximum salary raised due to the 2001 implementation of pay equity. Now, Whittaker states that McGill has added 40 people, potentially more, without providing the rationale for its decision.
“The problem which has stalled the entire collective agreement is the sole issue of where are these 40 people coming from. The University, over three weeks, has still not provided that information,” he explained.
Whittaker said that the three-week delay has made the union executive and membership “very frustrated.”
U1 Arts student Becca Yu attended the rally. “[McGill] basically has sucked three more months of work still without a contract,” she said.
“It was really good to see a huge group of people from MUNACA coming together again and actually being able to go through campus,” she continued.
In a statement released on March 6, Associate Vice-Principal (Human Resources) Lynne Gervais attributed the delay to two issues, one of which was salaries that are higher than the salary scale maximum of the position.
In a post on the union’s website, a note by Gervais is quoted: “Even if there is still a dispute about any issue, MUNACA can sign the agreement as ratified and file an interpretation grievance to resolve this issue.” The note is no longer on McGill’s Human Resources website.
Speaking with The Daily, Whittaker called Gervais’ note “ludicrous.”
“Who would possibly sign an agreement that they don’t understand the clauses of and will just put their faith in the system that later it will all work out?” he said. “This is absolutely ridiculous and I certainly hope that this is not how the administration functions, but it would explain a great deal.”
In a previous version of this story, the list was said to have been agreed on by both parties in October 2011. In fact, it was agreed on in November 2011. The Daily regrets the error.