Recent developments in the strike: Statement by Michael Di Grappa
Last Friday, we saw two significant developments in the MUNACA/PSAC strike against McGill.
First, in response to MUNACA/PSAC pressure tactics that have been limiting access to our campus and putting members of our community at risk, McGill asked the Superior Court of Quebec for an injunction constraining some union activities on the picket line.
This request was granted late Friday afternoon. The ruling, which remains in effect through October 3, is posted on our website.
Second, an inspector from the Quebec Ministry of Labour reported that a small number of McGill employees appeared to be ineligible to perform work normally done by MUNACA employees. McGill disputes these findings in each and every case and will, if called upon, make its views clear to a Labour Board hearing that will ultimately determine the facts.
McGill is abiding by its collective agreements and Quebec labour law in doing its best to minimize the effects of the strike on its students, professors and researchers.
The injunction, which we sought reluctantly, restricts the size of picket lines, curtails noise levels and calls for unimpeded access to our campus.
More precisely, the Court has said that MUNACA/PSAC must:
- Abstain "from demonstrating or protesting by shouting, chanting, marching, picketing, displaying signs or posters, gesturing or assembling" on our property;
- Cease and abstain "from impeding, obstructing or inhibiting access" to McGill;
- Abstain from using microphones and other devices to amplify sound on the picket line;
- Abstain "from impeding, obstructing or inhibiting" pedestrian or vehicular traffic;
- Abstain "from assembling in a group of more than 15 persons within four metres of the entries and exits" to McGill.
In applying for the provisional injunction we demonstrated that over the past few days the union has been escalating its pressure tactics - preventing, for example, the delivery of delicate and expensive shipments that include biological and chemical materials. Many of these items are perishable and need to be kept in particular conditions and delivered within a strict time frame or they are lost. By their actions, MUNACA/PSAC have been putting the research work of many our professors and students in peril.
In addition, I should point out that earlier this week between 400 and 500 picketers were walking as a group and blocking sidewalks on Durocher St. and University St. The sheer number of picketers put other pedestrians at risk, forcing them off the sidewalk and onto the bike path or the street, and hampered members of our community from entering the campus.
Finally, the noise level at various entry points to the campus was unacceptably high.
Please understand that we took this step as a last resort. Our preferred solution was to negotiate a protocol with the union that would have kept pedestrian areas around the campus safe and ensured delivery access to our buildings in order to safeguard vital materials without putting undue constraints on picketing. Unfortunately, it proved impossible to establish such a protocol with the union and we felt that in the best interests of the McGill community, we had no choice but to seek a solution through the Courts.
As we have stated since MUNACA/PSAC members walked out, we are committed to ensuring that classes remain open and that we continue to fulfill our academic and research mission. At the same time, ensuring the safety and security of the McGill community remains our top priority.
We are satisfied with the Superior Court's decision and view it as an important step in ensuring that students and faculty are able to pursue their studies and related activities in a safe and secure environment.
Earlier, at MUNACA's and PSAC's request, an inspector from the Quebec Ministry of Labour visited McGill to determine if people performing the tasks of striking MUNACA workers are eligible to do so. He met with more than 100 employees over a two-and-a-half-day period, a difficult task for which McGill expresses its appreciation.
This is a normal action in a labour dispute and the inspector has reported on his observations, as he is obliged to do when requested. This report is a step in a process and is not a definitive legal finding. As the inspector himself notes, only the Quebec Labour Board can make a legal determination and, if the Board holds a hearing into this report, McGill will make its position extremely clear.
After meeting the employees, the inspector referenced very few breaches of Section 109.1 of the Quebec Labour Code in his report.
In every case, McGill disagrees with the examples he cited.
Some of these include:
- Casual employees who had been hired before the strike to carry out their own work, which may overlap the tasks of MUNACA workers.
- In a number of cases we have had a chance to review, we have found errors of fact - including references to employees being replaced who were not even members of the MUNACA/PSAC union to start with.
- The situation of an employee who is eligible to perform the duties that have been assigned at the Macdonald Campus, even though this individual normally works at the downtown campus. Both campuses are managed by the same employer; they are subject to the same strike.
If MUNACA/PSAC chooses to pursue this matter before the Quebec Labour Board, McGill will take that opportunity to show that what it is doing is legal: we disagree in every case.
McGill maintains that all the contingency actions taken to keep the University operating in its core mission of teaching and research the MUNACA/PSAC strike are fully within the law.