Over 2,000 academic and administrative support employees at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) went on strike on October 9 for a second time this fall. Without a collective agreement for a year and a half, workers of the Syndicat des employées et employés de l’UQAM (SEUQAM), obstructed the entrances to the university to bring attention to the stalemate in their ongoing negotiations with the administration.
The union and the administration have failed to reach a new agreement since SEUQAM’s collective agreement expired in May 2012, leading the union’s membership earlier this year to agree to hold five ‘floating’ days of strike, to be held one day at a time at the discretion of the executive.
“It’s five days of strike, which 94 per cent [of the membership] voted in favour of,” Alexandre Pagé-Chassé, coordinator at the office of the associate academic dean for the Faculty of Management and SEUQAM member, told The Daily in French. “This is the second day, so technically there are three more days available on this mandate for the rest of the fall, depending on what happens, on whether the negotiations resume.”
“On the first day of strike [on September 3], we did some picketing. We walked around the different buildings,” Danny Glaude, a lab technician at UQAM, told The Daily in French “Today, we’re trying to do a little bit of obstruction in front of the doors to make people aware of our demands.”
According to Pagé-Chassé, the union is not asking for a raise in salaries when accounting for inflation.
“We’re not asking for much,” said Pagé-Chassé. “Qualitatively, there are no serious clashes – we’re aware of the economic and financial situation of the network [of universities] – but at some point we have to say that we won’t be the only ones paying for it with our working conditions and our salaries. It makes no sense.”
“We’re asking for the status quo relative to our old collective agreement, and what we’re offered is a drop in salaries over the next few years, and in fact over the past year and a half, because they don’t want to index salaries [to inflation],” added Pagé-Chassé.
“I think this is the first time they have lasted so long, these talks,” said Glaude.
The union executive will decide on further escalation of pressure depending on the progress of the talks, according to Pagé-Chassé.
A group of students was also present at the site in solidarity with the striking workers, obstructing a doorway to discourage people from entering the university.
“It’s important for us to support the SEUQAM, because they are essentially under attack by the UQAM administration, who wants to undermine their working conditions,” Vincent, a history student at UQAM, told The Daily in French. “It’s also important to support all workers who are fighting, who are on strike, who want to fight against austerity.”
“[Workers] are undergoing disgusting attacks from the capitalist class, from the state, and we’re fighting against that. It’s important that students support that fight, because they can help, like I’m helping here, by obstructing the doors,” said Vincent.