McGill law professors on strike

Barely a month ago, McGill’s Faculty of Law boasted that it ranked among the world’s top universities, placing 28th worldwide, up one spot from 2023, according to the 2024 QS World University Rankings.

That seems long ago.

McGill law professors, asserting that the university is negotiating in bad faith, began an unlimited strike, demanding better pay and working conditions, a halt towards the growing inclination towards centralization at the university, and the safeguarding of collegial governance at the faculty level.

Negotiations have been crawling ever since the Association of McGill Professors of Law (AMPL) was certified in November 2022 by the Quebec Labour Tribunal as the bargaining unit representing the McGill’s Faculty of Law tenured and tenure-track professors, a first for professors in the university’s history.

The AMPL laid out a “comprehensive” proposal dealing with 32 conditions, 17 of which have been settled over the past year of negotiations. But key provisions such as faculty working conditions dealing with appointments and reappointments, promotions and tenure, terms and conditions of employment have yet to be resolved. Others dealing with the governance of the faculty like the appointment and reappointment of the dean and the rights and privileges of the Association too have to be settled. Salary and employee benefits have also yet to be reconciled, said Evan Fox-Decent, AMPL’s president.

“While the issues separating us are not complicated, the University still refused to give us replies to our proposals on compensation, working environment, one-pension-for-all, and others,” told me Fox-Decent in an email this week.

“After more than 18 months of negotiating, we are devastated that it has come to this. We made clear that we did not need every “i” dotted or “t” crossed, and that agreements in principle over the various matters outstanding would have sufficed. They weren’t interested.”

Fox-Decent suspects McGill has decided to play hardball in a bid to discourage other faculties from attempting to unionize. If that’s the case, it’s not proving to be successful, he added. McGill’s Faculty of Education is following AMPL’s footsteps. The Association of McGill Professors of Education, established in July 2023, applied for certification before Quebec’s Labour Board. Other faculties at the university are apparently at different stages of organizing. One “very large faculty” apparently is going to be filing for certification “quite” soon, added Fox-Decent.

In related news, Quebec Superior Court rejected earlier this week an injunction request that would have forced protesters at the pro-Palestinian encampment on McGill University’s downtown campus to leave. The encampment began with 20 tents and has grown significantly since the weekend, with many supporters showing up every day in addition to those camping there every night.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Chantale Masse held that the evidence presented by the plaintiffs is “quite fragile considering their irreparable harm.”

“The Court is of the opinion that the balance of inconvenience is tipped in favour of the demonstrators, whose freedom of expression and peaceful assembly would be significantly infringed, whereas the harms demonstrated by the plaintiffs in the absence of such an order are rather limited, pertaining more to subjective fears and discomforts than to precise and serious fears for their safety,” held Justice Masse in Medvedovsky c. Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rigths McGill (SPHR McGill), 2024 QCCS 1518.

The AMPL heaved a sigh of relief following the ruling. It is pleased that the Superior Court rejected the request for an “extraordinary” temporary injunction because it would have prevented all protests on campus, “potentially limiting our right to picket,” said the AMPL in a tweet.

Here is a more in-depth look at the issues behind the strike.


McGill law professors unionized

McGill law professors seeking to unionize

Right to protest in the streets is a constitutionally protected right

Quebec Court of Appeal voids bylaw forcing protesters to provide itinerary to police


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