News | McGill seeks across-the-board wage freezes

Upper administrative and dean salaries to take 3 per cent cut, employees say.


The McGill administration met with representatives of employee groups from across the university last week to discuss a series of cost-cutting initiatives, including hiring and wage freezes, and early retirement packages.

According to interviews with employee group representatives, the administration is seeking across-the-board wage freezes for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

The McGill Association of University Teachers (MAUT) executive has met with the administration regarding a wage freeze for professors. MAUT President Alvin Shrier declined to comment further until the matter had been brought back to the association’s council.

Several employee group representatives interviewed by The Daily, however, said that human resources had told them that faculty had already accepted a wage freeze for 2013.

The McGill University Non-Academic Staff Association (MUNASA) executive met with human resources on Tuesday.  Because the meeting took place “in the strictest confidence,” according to MUNASA President Ron Critchley, he would not comment on the details of the administration’s proposal.

Neither MUNASA – which represents roughly 500 workers across campus – nor MAUT are unions, which means that they do not have the legal protection afforded to campus unions through their collective agreements.

Their only recourse, according to Critchley, will be “moral suasion.”

For unions, wage freezes would mean re-opening collective agreements in order to cancel or defer previously negotiated scheduled pay increases.

The McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA), which represents 1,700 workers across campus, met with the administration on Tuesday. According to MUNACA VP Finance David Kalant, the board of representatives has already decided to refuse to re-open the collective agreement.

The administration’s proposal would have cancelled a 1.5 per cent wage increase due in June, as well as scheduled pay-step increases.

“They want employees to take this wage freeze, and certainly the cuts from the government are ridiculous, but on the other hand, McGill has become top-heavy in the last few years,” Kalant said.  “The number of layers of upper administration seem to be growing […] when they say there’s no fat at the top. There is.”

Those with job security will be protected, according to Kalant, but those roughly 100 MUNACA members who don’t “are very vulnerable.”

AGSEM – McGill’s Teaching Union’s Teaching Assistant (TA) unit was also asked to re-open their collective agreement. Their membership will vote on the proposal during their March 27 general assembly, though AGSEM Vice-President Justin Marleau said the AGSEM executive will recommend they reject the proposal, which would have cancelled 1.2 per cent wages increases due next January.

“The admin are saying that everyone needs to be contributing equally to sacrifices. But we did not benefit during the good years – our pay rates have barely kept pace with inflation,” Marleau said. “Why should one of the poorest employee groups be making the same sacrifices?”

The Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE) was asked last Friday to re-open their collective agreement to cancel the 2013 pay increases.  Though she “doesn’t want to speak for their membership,” the union’s president, Jaime MacLean, said that it’s “highly unlikely” that will happen.

According to several employee group representatives interviewed, the administration is offering a 3 per cent cut on all upper administration and Dean salaries.

Director of Internal Relations Doug Sweet declined to confirm the 3 per cent cut, saying only that “a message about this package of measures will be sent to the entire McGill community, and that message could come as soon as early next week.”

In late February, the province rescinded a monetary penalty for not trimming university budgets immediately, extended the timetables for administering cuts over five- and seven-year periods, and promised a $1.7-billion reinvestment in 2014-2015.

The McGill administration is saying that this will make little difference, and that waiting to implement cuts later rather than sooner will only further balloon the University’s accumulated deficit.

Citing that this reinvestment is contingent on economic conditions in the province at that time, VP Finance Michael Di Grappa said that the University “cannot responsibly count on this investment,” in an internal memorandum to the community.