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Strike update: Progress at the table, but picketing hospital project not helpful

Published: 20 October 2011

From Michael Di Grappa, Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance)

As we have maintained, the dispute with MUNACA/PSAC will be resolved at the negotiating table through dialogue and compromise. While I am pleased to report we met with the union twice last week and are meeting three times this week, and that additional sessions have been agreed to, I must add unhappily that the union's actions of this morning in effectively shutting down work on the MUHC hospital at the Glen Yards site with hundreds of picketers is, to say the least, unhelpful.

The new hospital at the Glen Yards is Montreal's most important construction site. It is an urgently needed community resource that will serve millions of people. Shutting down this project will be costly, deprive hundreds of workers of their construction jobs and delay work that must be completed before winter sets in.

McGill is astonished by MUNACA/PSAC's unnecessary, provocative action. We are at the table today and tomorrow, working through the issues according to a schedule agreed to by both sides with the help of the conciliator the union requested on Sept. 1. Progress is being made. Nothing the union does away from the table can speed the pace of negotiations, nor change the order with which the outstanding issues will be dealt.

Despite this progress at the negotiation table, the union has recently adopted a much more aggressive picketing strategy that has included picketing at the private homes of senior McGill administrators, picketing at the workplaces of the volunteers who serve on our Board of Governors and disrupting longstanding Homecoming events attended by many elderly McGill alumni. Senior administrators have been subjected to abuse.

The progress we have made at the table allows us to move closer to being able to deal with what the union has identified as its core issues. At that point, we will have to address the union's demand for a total compensation increase (including salary and progression adjustments) of 28.9 per cent over three years, the union's desire for hiring based strictly on seniority rather than merit and its desire for an effective veto over changes to the pension and benefit plans that apply to all McGill employees.

Through conversations with members of the McGill community and the emails that we have received, my colleagues and I are well aware that the strike has forced all of us, from researchers to faculty and administrators, to make adjustments. We are also conscious of the fact that it presents challenges for students, and I would like to thank them for their patience and understanding.

Finally, I would like to clarify one point in order to address some incorrect information apparently circulating on campus: the University is not "making money" during the strike by not paying striking workers. As mentioned in a previous message, the Quebec Government withholds from the funds it gives us the equivalent to what we would have spent on salaries for those employees who are on strike.


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