Originally published August 13, 2018; last updated April 8, 2019.
McGill University recognizes staff members’ freedom of association, and its position is that this freedom should be exercised in a fully democratic and informed manner.
The following FAQ is intended to provide information for staff seeking to understand how they may be affected by the MUNACA drive to unionize M1, M2 and M3 employees.
On October 1, 2018, MUNACA filed six petitions with Quebec’s Tribunal administratif du travail – the government body that oversees unionization – to unionize various groups of McGill employees. A petition is a request, and does not mean that the targeted group of employees have become unionized. The petitions have started a process that will ultimately culminate in a decision by the Tribunal about which staff, if any, will become unionized.
Québec law requires employers to work within specific parameters when discussing unionization. In line with these parameters, we published the first version of this FAQ on August 13 and have updated it since that date.
Q. What are the latest developments?
A. On October 3, Quebec’s Tribunal administratif du travail (TAT) – the provincial body that oversees unionization – informed the University that MUNACA had filed six separate petitions to unionize certain McGill employees. This triggered an evaluation process during which the Tribunal will determine which employees, if any, will become unionized. As required by law, McGill posted these petitions to our website and in various physical locations around campus on October 4. On November 8, McGill and the union participated in an initial preparatory meeting conducted by the Tribunal. This meeting gave the parties the opportunity to clarify the scope of the petitions. On November 19, as set out by the Tribunal, McGill provided the union with a list of employees targeted by the petitions and then posted this information at different locations around the University. Since then, the parties – McGill and MUNACA – have been exchanging information that is needed before decisions are made to define the appropriate bargaining unit(s).
Q. Why did MUNACA file six different petitions?
A. The petitions describe several different groups of McGill employees. Three of the petitions adopt the “enlargement” approach to unionization, which would seek to absorb various non-unionized employees into MUNACA. The other three seek to create new standalone bargaining units via the “open field” approach to unionization. Some groups of staff are included in more than one petition, but this does not mean that a given employee can belong to more than one union.
Q. Is my position included in one or more of these petitions?
A. You may consult the list posted on November 19 to see if your position is targeted. MUNACA may choose to challenge the composition of the list with the Tribunal, so it is possible that other employees could be added to the list.
Q. Are managers and professionals now unionized?
A. No. The six petitions filed by MUNACA triggered a process which will culminate in a binding decision by the Tribunal, which will determine which – if any – employees will become unionized.
Q. How many M-level employees have signed union cards?
A. We do not know. In Quebec, unions have no legal obligation to reveal how many union cards have been signed – either to the employer, or to their current or prospective members. Nor, if they do announce a number, are they obligated to provide proof of its accuracy.
MUNACA has stated that “it recognizes that it should obtain support from more than 50% of eligible Ms before submitting a demand for a new union certificate at the Ministère du Travail,” but it has not stated whether this threshold was reached.
Q. What happens next?
A. The parties are trying to reach an agreement in defining the appropriate bargaining unit(s). If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the Tribunal will hold hearings starting in May.
Q. When will we know who, if anyone, will become unionized?
A. This may take several weeks or months. We will continue to communicate updates regarding the timeline as more details emerge.
Q. What restrictions are placed on employers in this situation?
A. The University will, of course, continue to follow all applicable laws, which include observing the restrictions placed upon employers during unionization drives. For example:
- Employers do not know (and cannot ask) whether the union has a large enough percentage of union cards signed to certify the bargaining unit automatically or to bring it to a vote. Only the union has this information, and it does not have the obligation to tell McGill or even the employees targeted. If the union does announce that a certain number of cards have been signed, it is under no obligation to provide proof of this except to the Tribunal.
- Employers cannot ask the Tribunal to investigate most aspects of the unionization drive (such as whether the union provided false or misleading information in order to attract new supporters). Only employees or groups of employees (whether in a formal association like MUNASA or an informal group) can approach the Tribunal with requests of this nature.
- The employer cannot know the identity of any person who has signed a union card. People who have signed union cards can be assured that this information remains entirely confidential, known only by the union and the Tribunal.
Q. Can I contact the Tribunal to express my views about this unionization drive, or how it is being conducted?
A. Some of you have asked us how you can make your voice heard in the certification process. At some point in this process, the Tribunal may hold hearings where employees may be invited to share their views. We will ensure that all employees receive information about these hearings as it becomes available. You are also welcome to let Human Resources know about any concerns by writing to managers.hr [at] mcgill.ca.
Q. Can McGill provide English-language translations of the petitions that MUNACA filed?
A. Unfortunately, the University cannot publish English translations of these petitions, because legally speaking these translations would be considered our interpretations of the French texts. Since MUNACA is the author of these petitions, only MUNACA can publish authoritative English-language versions of them.
A. MUNACA can attempt to form a new bargaining unit including only new members (e.g. M-level staff). On October 1, MUNACA filed three “open field” unionization petitions that appear to target Ms and other staff.
For these petitions to be successful, the union must obtain signed union cards from 35%-50% of targeted employees (which would trigger a vote on unionization , or 50%+1 of targeted employees (which would trigger automatic unionization).
A. MUNACA can attempt to unionize Ms by absorbing them into its existing bargaining unit. On October 1, MUNACA filed three “enlargement” unionization petitions that appear to target Ms and other staff.
For these petitions to be successful, the union must obtain signed union cards from 50%+1 of the entire group of existing MUNACA members and targeted new members. However, for the purposes of this calculation, current MUNACA members may be considered to have already signed MUNACA union cards, as they are already members of the union. This means that, since there are approximately 1,500 MUNACA members and roughly 2,000 M1-M3 employees, MUNACA may need as few as 300 signed union cards from M-level employees in order to absorb all 2,000 Ms (50%+1 of entire ~3,500-person group).
If one or more of these petitions succeed, M-level employees may not have an opportunity to vote on whether or not to unionize. They may, however, be asked to vote on whether they will join MUNACA or form a new separate union.
Q. Will I get to vote on whether to unionize?
A. Signing a union card makes you a member of the union seeking certification, and legally signals to Québec’s Tribunal administratif du travail that you want to be unionized (represented by that union). In order to make a fully informed decision, before signing a union card you may want to read the union’s constitution, bylaws and other literature. You may also want to know what your financial obligations to the union will be, what rules the union will require you to follow, and what the union’s political and organizational goals are. You can take as long as you like to consider whether to sign a card, and should never feel pressured to do so.
Q. What should I consider when deciding whether to sign a union card?
A. This is a decision that requires reflection. You may want to start by asking yourself questions such as:
- Am I content with the working conditions my employer currently offers me?
- What, concretely, would I like to see changed? Is it reasonable to believe that a union would be able to negotiate these changes?
- If I have concerns, are they best solved through discussions with my employer or through a union?
- How much would I be required to pay in union dues, if I become unionized?
- If the union promises improved conditions (wages, benefits, job security, etc.), are these promises realistic compared with what is currently offered by the University and other employers?
- Is the union proposing to unionize Ms as a separate bargaining unit or to include the Ms into the current MUNACA bargaining unit?
A. If you have signed a union card and wish to cancel it, you can do so by faxing a letter to the union indicating that, as of the date of the document, you are resigning as a member of the union. Because of how the certification process works, you should also send a copy of your fax to the Tribunal Administratif du Travail at 514-873-3112, and keep a copy for your records.
Q. If Ms become unionized, will some employees be excluded from the union?
A. The Quebec Labour Code notes that “a person who, in the opinion of the Tribunal, is employed as manager, superintendent, foreman or representative of the employer in his relations with his employees” (Article 1(l)(1°)) is ineligible to be a member of a union.
The employer can request the exclusion of positions on these or other grounds; individual employees are not legally able to do so. Quebec’s Tribunal Administratif du Travail ultimately decides whether or not a given position should be excluded.
Q. Will union representatives have access to their members’ salaries?
Q. Are temporary employees targeted in this union drive?
Q. Would salary scales change as a result of unionization?
A. Salary scales would be subject to negotiation in a new collective agreement.
Q. If unionization occurred, would salary increases be applied uniformly regardless of merit?
A. That would be subject to negotiation in a new collective agreement. Currently, all MUNACA employees receive the same salary increases regardless of merit.
Q. Could unionized employees be forced to go on strike, even if they do not wish to do so?
A. Yes. If employees within a given bargaining unit vote to give their union a strike mandate, the union could decide to launch a strike. If you are a member of that union, you would be on strike regardless of how you voted, or whether you signed a union card during this unionization campaign.
Q. How will unionization affect current M staff advancement prospects through internal hiring? Will candidates be nominated for internal positions based on seniority or will experience, skills, performance and competencies still play a role in hiring decisions?
A. Internal hiring processes may have to be negotiated as part of a new collective agreement.
Q. What parameters are used, or can be used, to define the group that is being affected by the union drive? Why does the union lump all of the M employees together instead of focusing on specific departments, for example?
A. The union decides which group of employees to target for unionization. Under Quebec law, this group must meet certain criteria, e.g. a “commonality of interests.”
Q. Employment security is frequently mentioned in the unionization debate. What is employment security?
A. Employment security applies when a unit abolishes a position. It guarantees that employees who meet certain conditions, such as seniority, must be relocated to another position within the University when their position is abolished. Employment security does not prevent employees from being terminated for cause. For Ms, approximately 0.3% of positions have been abolished on average in the last three years. The following table shows the number of positions abolished for Ms and MUNACA members:
Q. What choices are there for those who do not want to unionize?
A. You can choose not to sign a union card, and participate in a unionization vote if one takes place. As the law requires employers to remain neutral in communications on this subject, the University cannot provide advice on this matter.
Q. If I become unionized, will my union dues increase over time?
A. Unions are free to set their own dues and change them over time. Consequently, these dues vary from union to union and may or may not increase over time. In 2002, MUNACA’s dues were set at 0.86% of members’ gross pay. This year, they increased from 1.61% to 1.73% of the minimum hourly wage in a given MUNACA member’s pay scale, plus a $1 monthly strike fund contribution. Also, note that if you are a manager or professional, the minimum and maximum ends of your salary scale increases each year. This means that the 1.73% calculation would be applied to a larger minimum salary figure each year.
Q. What can the union guarantee me?
A. You may hear various promises during this campaign, but remember that promises are not guarantees. If you become unionized, any change to your working conditions will be subject to the union’s negotiations with the University.
Q. What happens if the union becomes certified?
A. Several things will occur:
- You will become a unionized employee.
- Your working conditions will be governed by a collective agreement.
- You will pay union dues at a rate determined by the union, and the University will have a legal obligation to withhold these dues from your pay whether or not you signed a card or voted in favour of unionization.
- The union’s representatives will become your spokespeople – only they will be able to negotiate changes to your working conditions.
A. MUNACA has set its current dues at 1.73% of the minimum hourly wage in a given employee’s pay scale, multiplied by the number of hours worked in a given pay period. Members also pay $1 per month into a strike fund. If applied to full-time managers and professionals, this could be calculated as follows:
|GRADE||MINIMUM ANNUAL SALARY||ANNUAL DUES||ANNUAL STRIKE FUND CONTRIBUTION||ANNUAL TOTAL||AMOUNT PER PAY||SAMPLE ROLE PROFILE|
|01||No M-level managers or professionals are in this grade|
To calculate how much your dues could cost:
- Select your job family here (e.g. Administration, Finance, etc.)
- Find the role profile associated with your position (e.g. ADM1A, LOG3B, etc.)
- Identify the salary grade associated with your role profile (e.g. Grade 03, Grade 07, etc.)
- Consult this table and identify the minimum salary for your salary grade. Your dues will be 1.73% of this number, plus your strike fund contribution.
Union dues are eligible for a tax credit in Québec and a tax deduction federally.
Q. What are my rights during a union drive?
A. Union representatives and fellow employees may not try to get you to sign a union card while you are at work. You have the right:
- To decide whether you want a union to represent you. Generally, the law says you should not feel pressured to make this decision. No one may try to influence your decision using threats, penalties, intimidation or false statements.
- To express your opinions about unionization to co-workers over whom you have no supervisory responsibilities, whether favourable or unfavourable.
- To request information about the union so you can make an informed decision, and to verify the information presented to you.
- To decide whether the union may solicit you at home, or on your way to and from work.
Q. Were M staff included in the University’s pay equity maintenance exercises?
A. It has been asserted that M positions are not included in pay equity. This is inaccurate. All positions at McGill – including all academic positions, all M positions, and all other unionized and non-unionized positions – are included in pay equity in accordance with Québec’s Pay Equity Act. Unionization has no impact on this.
Q. Is pay equity negotiated through collective bargaining?
A. No. In Quebec, pay equity is governed by the Pay Equity Act, which takes precedence over the any agreement, collective agreement or employment contract. All employees, whether unionized or non-unionized, are covered by the provisions of the Act. The composition of a pay equity committee is not determined unilaterally by the University. There are certain rules provided for in the Pay Equity Act that must be respected, and the composition is discussed with the different employee groups. The CNESST may also be consulted and provide guidance on this issue. The University considers that a pay equity committee must be reflective of the various employee groups.
Q. How does MUNACA members’ compensation compare with that of M staff?
A. The fact is it’s very difficult to compare, as the salary scales and approach to compensation are very different for the two groups. Here are some facts.
- Effective June 1, 2018, MUNACA members received a 2% economic increase and a 2.97% step progression in their pay grade. The 21% of MUNACA members who were at the maximum of their pay grade received the 2% economic increase, but no step progression.
- Effective June 1, 2018, M staff received a 1% economic increase in addition to a merit increase funded by a budget envelope of 2%. 59% of eligible staff received a total increase of 3% or higher. The 4.7% of M staff at the maximum of their pay grade received their merit as a lump sum payment in addition to their 1% economic increase.
- MUNACA members reach the maximum of their pay grade in 12 fixed steps, whereas M pay grades are wider so that managers’ and professionals’ salaries can progress farther over the course of their careers.
- In addition to the yearly salary policy, management and professional staff are eligible for other compensation such as lump-sum payments for special projects and base salary adjustments for taking on additional responsibilities.
Q. Did the University “take away” floating holidays from some managers and professionals?
A. This spring, we learned that McGill’s Policy on Holidays with Pay had been incorrectly applied in some areas of the University. As a result, approximately half of the MUNACA staff who were hired on or after June 1, 2004, and who had been subsequently transferred to an M position, were incorrectly allowed to retain their two paid floating holidays per year. This inconsistency affected approximately 200 employees.
In order to correct this inequitable application of the policy, while minimizing the disruption for those employees, we announced in May that we would grant a transition year, during which the University would defer the application of this portion of the Policy until 2019-20. As a result, 2018-2019 is the final year that employees who have been erroneously receiving floating holidays (or opting for an annual lump-sum payment, as per the Policy) may do so. All managers and professionals who are eligible for floating holidays will continue to receive them as per the Policy.
Q. If M staff were unionized, would they automatically be eligible for the same pay increases that MUNACA members currently receive?
A. No. Unionized employees’ pay and working conditions are determined via negotiations between their union and their employer.
Q. Do M staff receive compensation for overtime worked?
A. M1 and M2 staff are eligible to receive overtime compensation – either in the form of a payment or banked hours – as per Article 9 of the Salary Administration Policy. These staff members are eligible for overtime when they work pre-approved hours in excess of their normal work week – at straight time for hours worked in excess of their regular work week but below 40 hours, and at time-and-a-half after 40 hours. Statutory holidays are compensated at double-time. If you have questions or concerns about the application of the overtime policy, please speak with your HR Advisor or Direct Service Representative. M3 and M4 staff are not eligible for overtime compensation. But all managers and professionals are eligible for non-base payments as per Article 8 of the Salary Administration Policy, to recognize additional temporary responsibilities and the delivery of projects outside of their normal workload.
- Your Pay:
- Your Benefits:
- To Learn More about the Unionization Process in Québec: