By McGill Reporter Staff
Members of the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association ratified a new contract with the University yesterday, bringing an end to a three-month long strike by the union representing some 1,700 McGill lab technicians, IT technicians, clerical staff and library assistants.
At a ratification assembly at the Palais des congrès de Montréal, 71.5 per cent of MUNACA members voted in favour of the five-year collective agreement reached last Wednesday afternoon. Some of the striking workers are back on the job today.
“Being able to negotiate a five-year agreement instead of a three-year contract allowed us the necessary flexibility to both satisfy the Government of Quebec’s salary policy over the next three years, and meet many of the union’s demands,” Michael Di Grappa, Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance), wrote in an email announcement to McGill staff and students after the vote yesterday. “We are glad we were able to accomplish what we set out to do: negotiate a collective agreement that is fair, realistic and sustainable in the context of the University’s financial situation.”
After a tentative agreement between the parties was reached, a back-to-work protocol then had to be negotiated. It was signed Friday, paving the way for yesterday’s vote.
“I’m very relieved that we’ve been able to come to a resolution on this, and I’m glad that the membership had the ability to review the contract and make a decision on their own,” said Kevin Whittaker, president of MUNACA. “I just hope that the transition will be as smooth as McGill is hoping – as well as we – to make it.”
“We are looking forward to an open, and hopefully continuous, dialogue with the administration – something that we’ve never had in the past,” Whittaker said.
The strike began on Sept. 1, coinciding with the first day of classes. The same day, the union asked the Quebec government for the assistance of a conciliator, and McGill agreed. More than 100 issues were outstanding at the time the strike began.
The union and University had been negotiating without success since last November, and renewed talks with the help of the conciliator on Sept. 8. Talks continued sporadically through September and October, with both sides reporting little progress.
After a negotiating session on Nov. 11, the conciliator suggested that both sides take a break. She called the parties back to the bargaining table on Friday, Nov. 25.
The strike, which turned bitter at times, provoked strong feelings on campus, as many students and some professors supported the union and sharply criticized the administration. Some services for students were reduced or even eliminated, although the University worked hard to deploy resources to deal with different needs as the school year progressed.
The striking support staff had been without a contract since Nov. 30, 2010. Signed in April 2009, the previous collective bargaining agreement, also reached with the assistance of a government-appointed conciliator, covered a period beginning Dec. 1, 2007.