Negotiations between the approximately 225 members of the maintenance workers’ union at the Université de Montréal and the employer have deteriorated to the point that management has begun handing out disciplinary notices to employees simply for wearing t-shirts bearing their union name.

The main roadblock in the latest round of negotiations has been the upcoming relocation of certain activities on the main campus to new university buildings currently under construction in Outremont. Management is also seeking to exclude its employees from these new facilities during the first year and to have their work contracted to outside workers, which the union representatives strongly oppose.

A second major issue is the outlandish demand from management representatives to have the option to modify unionized workers’ work schedules with 24-hour notice!

Since the start of the new academic year, support staff have taken to wearing their red union t-shirts one day a week. This very low-pressure tactic has apparently raised the ire of management representatives to the point of sanctioning employees by issuing the disciplinary notices.

“This kind of abuse only strengthens our determination to stand up to threats from the employer,” stated Sylvain Chicoine, president of CUPE 1186 representing maintenance workers at the Université de Montréal.

It is to be noted that workers there have been without a labour contract since May 31, 2014. Negotiations to renew their collective agreement have been underway since the spring of 2015 and have since stalled despite nearly two dozen meetings. On July 7 of this year, a conciliator was appointed to resolve the impasse.

The union members recently voted 94% in favour of pressure tactics up to and including a strike. “These kinds of threats will lead inevitably to strike action,” added CUPE representative Liette Garceau.