On the Picket Line

Unionized university workers in Quebec strike for higher wages

By Beverly Bernardo
October 14, 2019

MONTREAL — Unionized support workers at the University of Quebec at Montreal went on strike Sept. 3, the opening day of classes, to press their demand for higher wages. The 1,800 members of Union of UQAM Employees have been without a contract since May 2017. While the university administration didn’t cancel classes, the registration and student life services offices, cafeterias, sports center, and the sciences and music libraries all shut down.

After a large demonstration supporting the strike Sept. 12, the unionists voted by 87 percent to accept a new offer from the university Sept. 19.

Both the Education and Sciences and the Human Sciences student associations voted to back the strike, with students joining the picket lines. Many classes had to be cancelled. “The University is nothing without us,” said a sign carried by a striker.

After UQAM bosses presented its final offer July 3, the unionists voted 93 percent in favor of organizing protest actions, including five one-day strikes to conclude by Sept. 9. But when that day came, the unionists voted by 73 percent to continue their strike for another five days because the wage offer “is still not sufficient.”

Many workers expressed anger at the slow pace of negotiations. “As long as the offer is correct, we’ll accept it, but we don’t want to give them a blank check,” striker Johanne Levesque told the Militant Sept. 9.