Town hall meeting

Town hall meeting McGill University

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McGill Reporter
December 11, 2003 - Volume 36 Number 07
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MForum Town Hall

The potential buyback of summer Fridays, the need for salary increases and the hiring of more support staff were key topics of discussion during the Management Forum's second annual Town Hall Meeting on November 25.

About 50 managers attended the lunchtime forum at the Brown Building, organized by Senate representatives of administrative and support staff: Gregg Blachford, Rosemary Cooke, Fran Ezzy-Jorgensen, Linda Montreuil, Kathryn Peterson and Honora Shaughnessy.

Blachford moderated the session and explained that his group's mandate is to report staff concerns to senior administrators. "We have periodic access to the ears of the principals and deans," he said.

Amidst negotiations with MUNACA to buy back four summer Fridays from clerical staff, many managers voiced their opposition to the possibility of ceding holiday time.

"McGill mustn't forget the historical sacrifices that were made to obtain summer Fridays," one staffer said, noting that employees forfeited pay increases for holiday compensation.

A second manager said he came to McGill four years ago because of summer Fridays. "I have a young family," he explained. "I accepted a lower salary at McGill since working here meant having more time off in summers. Without summer Fridays, I'm not sure I'll stay."

Another staffer was outraged that summer Fridays might be bought back. "We've sacrificed too much for summer Fridays," she vented. "No buyback will ever compensate for what we've given up and I will fight until the end to keep summer Fridays."

An IT specialist said he was tempted to decamp in the '90s to double his salary. "But salary wasn't the sole issue," he specified. "I stayed at McGill because I want a balance between work and personal life. The university will lose its competitive advantage if it buys back summer Fridays."

Summer Fridays are not the gift they appear, said another audience member, since managers must boost working hours to complete their duties during a four-day week. "I find it insulting that summer Fridays may be bought back in the name of heightened productivity," she said. "If we lose summer Fridays, what incentives will there be to put in that extra effort the rest of the year?"

A staffer from the Admissions, Recruitment and Registrar's Office said buying back summer Fridays will not improve front line services. "McGill rates so poorly in services for students because we simply don't have enough staff," she said. "We need to hire more bodies and not expect the same exhausted bodies to work more hours."

"I love McGill," she added. "I believe in education, I believe in young people and I don't mind working long hours. As long as I'm valued and fairly compensated."

If McGill does recruit more support staff, someone else warned, the university should ensure new hires be permanent. "Casual employees do not go the extra distance," she said. "They don't have a vested interest."

Blachford said some of the issues raised at last year's Town Hall Meeting — concerns over frozen salaries, Banner, stress and burnout — were brought to senior administration. The university had already planned to address one particular concern — staff shortages — by allocating $600,000 in increased financial support of units in its 2002–2003 budget.

"Changes and improvements are coming, through a combination of MUNASA, Management Forum and lobbying from Senate reps," said Blachford, adding McGill plans to invest more in staff training and development, while M-compensation is to be addressed in the new year and managers will have a two percent salary increase this month.

One manager replied that recent and imminent M-compensations aren't enough. "Most of us work 50 hours or more per week," she said. "I don't know how much longer this can go on without morale bottoming out."

What McGill needs is more staff to meet McGill's ambitions and growth, said a director of Facilities Management and Development. "With every new building, you have to hire new staff to clean it, and that hasn't occurred," she said. "We desperately need more custodial staff. The academic mission of the university cannot go forward without the support of non-academic staff."

Montreuil recommended that managers create their own committees to periodically discuss how to improve work atmosphere and report to directors, chairs and deans. "I'm part of a group that meets once per month," she said. "It helps alleviate feelings of isolation and frustration."

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