As a result of their militant stand in defence of their just demands, support workers at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) managed to secure a new collective agreement which incorporated their demands to negotiate wages themselves. At a general membership meeting held on September 19, they voted 87 per cent in favour the tentative agreement reached earlier in the week between the UQAM administration and the Syndicat des employé(e)s de soutien de l’UQAM (SEUQAM), thereby ending their strike which began on September 3.
Wages was one of the main reasons they went on strike. UQAM had offered wage increases between 2019 and 2025 based on government wage policy (PSG). This refers to the wage increase rate in the public sector to be negotiated between the government and the sector’s unions, which is not even known yet. Workers refused and demanded definite wage increases. The ratified agreement provides set wage increases for 2018 and 2019, and a guarantee of wage increases equal to or higher than what public sector workers will be able to negotiate with the government.
The union reports that workers were also able to negotiate improvements in clauses related to work-family balance, sick days and overtime pay.
“Our members are proud of having mobilized to get a guaranteed minimum wage increase threshold and to avoid being totally dependent on the PSG,” said SEUQAM President Louisa Cordeiro.
Workers held several actions to push forward their just demands.
On September 12, over 2,000 people took to the streets of Montreal in support of their fight. As 2019 marks UQAM’s 50th anniversary, the union used the occasion to organize the protest under the theme: “UQAM: 50 Years of Solidarity.” They clearly pointed out that their working conditions have a direct impact on students’ living and learning conditions, as well as on the entire academic community.
The action included a march that began at UQAM’s Place Pasteur and continued along Ontario Street, ending on Fullum Street, where the offices of Quebec’s Education Ministry are located. The protest brought together many workers from other unions who came out to march with them, as well as a significant number of students. “Support staff are indispensable. They require better working conditions to be able to provide us with better learning conditions,” one student remarked. “The refusal of UQAM’s administration and the Treasury Board to look at the reality and the justness of their demands is unacceptable.” Many passers-by, supporting their demands, cheered them on.
SEUQAM President Louise Cordeira had this to say at the action: “We want to continue contributing to our institution’s development. However, to be able to retain the members of various working groups, whether they be professionals, technicians, office workers or trades and services employees, they must be treated properly, which also means decent salaries.”