NDP Gets Behind Striking Mcgill Workers

The National Democratic Party showed up in full force to support striking McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association workers Friday, by publicly attending a rally at the number-one school in the country and encouraging strikers to settle the dispute out of court.

“With the NDP, you can be sure of one thing: we know on which side we are, and we are on your side,” said Alexandre Boulerice, NDP MP for Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie. President of the NDP and candidate for party leader Brian Topp—who attended McGill in the early ‘80s—also showed up, voicing his opinion of the rally, which happened across the street from McGill, since a recent injunction prevents MUNACA workers from congregating on the property.

“All the effort you are putting into lawyers [and] injunctions to tell people that they can’t peacefully protest right over there, spend it at the table, [make] a reasonable settlement and do it now,” he said, gesturing at the McGill campus.

MUNACA has almost 1,700 workers who have been on strike since Sept. 1 to achieve wage parity with other Montreal universities, as well as improved pensions and benefits.
Boulerice and Topp’s views were echoed by Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians—an organization devoted for economic and social justice for Canadians.

“McGill University wants to lower your benefits, they want to lower your pensions and they most importantly want to lower expectations for the next generation. This is happening right across the country,” said Barlow. “Don’t think you can’t have a sense of rights because we’re in a new era of ‘dog eat dog,’ ‘race to the bottom,’ ‘hope you can make it,’ ‘sorry if you can’t.’ Too bad, because we don’t accept that kind of society and we never will.”

MUNACA president Kevin Whittaker is grateful for the notoriety that comes with an endorsement from the NDP.

“We are very encouraged by the statement that they were making, specifically Mr. Topp, that McGill should stop wasting its time and money in getting injunctions and should be focusing instead on producing a fair resolution to this strike,” said Whittaker. “Any time we get such an endorsement [from the NDP] it helps our cause, because it gets the message out to a broader public.”

“Certainly if […] the NDP are focusing on our core issues then they must understand that these are fair and equitable demands, otherwise they wouldn’t be backing us on this. So it’s very reassuring,” said Whittaker.

MUNACA has received support from many members and groups from the community, including the Federation des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec, who refused to cross the picket line at McGill recently.

“Last week when we picketed at the construction site at McGill hospital, we received the full cooperation of FTQ members who were working on site,” said a MUNACA spokesperson, who asked not to be named. “They agreed not to cross our picket lines and stand in solidarity with our actions.”

Michel Arsenault, the president of the FTQ, offered his support of MUNACA alongside the NDP on Friday.

Nearly every sentence was punctuated by cheers from the crowd of MUNACA workers who had flooded McGill College Ave. Police had to set up roadblocks with their cars to prevent people from spilling out onto Sherbrooke St. W.

McGill University was unavailable for comment.