Thursday, October 20, 2011

McGill Staff Understand Coercive Diplomacy

After the hockey lockout a few years ago, one of the sports commentators remarked that the millionaire players did not understand the basics of strikes: that they are about sabotage and intimidation.  When we moved here, I understood this immediately because the cable union strikers were cutting cables, helping me to decide to get a satellite dish instead.  And I use that example all the time when I discuss coercive diplomacy (as I did yesterday) in Intro to IR. 

We now have a more recent example.  See the text below from an email profs got from McGill about the staff strike:

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

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. ...
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. ....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.
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.
 Sounds like the staff union understands coercive diplomacy just fine.  As does McGill since they have also acted at various points in time to turn the pressure up on the strikers.  I would rather this all be over, as I like our staff and have not always viewed the administration as entirely wise.  However, I also see McGill's point--that budgets are tight, that pensions are costly, that the desire to have strict seniority preferences for hiring would be awful, and so on.  So, we have deadlock until it gets colder....

1 comment:

MS said...

Well-said, at both the poli-sci level and the McGill current events level. The union just lost the moral highgroung in my opinion.