MUNACA Ends Three-Month-Long Walk-Out

Photo Erin Sparks

After almost three months, the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association ended their strike with a ratification vote on a new collective agreement on Dec 5.

“I feel relieved because I was able to present this offer to [MUNACA workers],” said union President Kevin Whittaker. “I wanted them to understand the offer. We’ve been here since 9:00 a.m., so it was a very long meeting but I’m very happy […] because people got to ask the questions that they felt needed answers.”

The vote showed 71.5 per cent of MUNACA workers were in favor of the new collective agreement.

“I wanted to ensure that it was the membership who got to decide the future of the strike and not be myself, sitting in a room deciding that for them,” said Whitaker.

A tentative agreement was reached on Nov. 30 between MUNACA and McGill administration through the use of outside mediator-conciliator Claire Tremblay. Tremblay was instructed by the Minister of Labour in Quebec to propose a solution to the deadlock between MUNACA and McGill.

The ratification meeting, where the recommendation was put to a vote by all 1,700 members of MUNACA, took over six hours.

“Union and employer representatives have taken a commitment before me to recommend that this document be accepted by their respective organization as soon as possible,” said Tremblay in the preamble to her recommendation.

Whittaker was quoted in The Gazette as saying that the new agreement contains several of the main objectives that MUNACA was striking for and that it is “well over” the six per cent wage increase initially offered by McGill administration.

MUNACA has been in negotiations for a new contract for over 11 months, and since the strike began in September, they have been through 23 conciliation meetings, including a final session of ‘round-the-clock negotiations that lasted six days.

“It has been a long and difficult battle. The members thought that they were not being respected by the university. In some cases their direct supervisors were very supportive and in others they were not,” said Whittaker.

“So it’s the ‘nots’ that will have more difficulty, of course. I think that the first few days will be the hardest. We want to make sure that we are there and that we’re able to give them the support that they need.”

No changes to the recommendation were allowed by either party. It had to be accepted—or rejected—as a whole.

The new five-year collective agreement includes a retroactive 2.2 percent wage increase across the board and a 1.2 per cent wage increase starting in June of 2012, which begins a 22-step conversion onto a new wage scale for MUNACA employees. As well, it projects subsequent increases, with the intention of moving MUNACA workers onto the new wage scale, in June of every year until 2015 when their contract will be renegotiated.

The deal also specifies that the university can no longer unilaterally reduce its contributions to MUNACA benefit plans, and mandates the assembly of a new Staff Pension Committee, which will be comprised of representatives from McGill and each employee group covered by the pension plan.

Any proposed changes and all relevant information must be submitted to the new Staff Pension Committee for review and consultation.

“It was the best deal that we can get them today. After the three months it was the best that we could achieve and I wanted them to see it and decide on their own if they felt it was good enough and if they did not, if they were willing to continue the strike for a better deal,” said Whittaker.

“I’m very glad that they got the opportunity to review it and make their decision.”

McGill officials could not be reached for comment by press time.