More than 1,500 temporary McGill University workers have declared a five-day strike, demanding more money and equal treatment with permanent employees.

The workers picketed on Sunday as the university held an open house, saying little progress has been made in efforts to negotiate a new contract.

“It makes me feel really frustrated and like my labour isn’t worth anything to McGill,” said Lucie Lastinger, who is also a student at the school.

Inori Roy, another casual employee, said timing the protest with the open house, where thousands of prospective students and parents visited the campus, was intentional.

“I want prospective students to know what’s going on on campus,” she said. “It’s not that it’s not a valuable institution, but it’s an institution that needs to be doing better.”

The union has been without a contract since April, 2015. According to the union, 85 per cent of its members are also students.

Among the demands are the following:

  • Equal treatment, including hiring priority for those with relevant experience.
  • Wages that reflect the work they do
  • Stable jobs, including seniority and benefits.
  • A $15 minimum wage plus regular pay increases.
  • A better job posting system and more student input into work study jobs.

Union President Claire Michela said the current lowest wage of $10.85 not enough to survive on.

“A facilities attendant at the athletic centre could make $10.85, which is 10 cents above the provincial minimum was a casual employee,” she said. “The same job title… receives, I believe, $19.35 as a permanent employee.”

There has been a larger push in Quebec for a province-wide minimum wage of $15 and casual employee Parker Finley said that is what is required for a living wage.

“A lot of the people in this union are part of the work study program and that program is specifically for students who have demonstrated financial need,” he said. “I think students who have already gone through the process of demonstrating financial need… getting paid minimum wage, five dollars less than this living wage, is something that isn’t good.”

In an email, a McGill spokesperson said negotiations aren’t over and the university is set to return to the bargaining table on Nov. 10.