After several months of strike, the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery will finally reopen its doors on September 11, with “almost complete” access to its facilities. Since the signing of an agreement in principle in July, a major cleaning has been carried out on the site, which is now 98% operable.
This was announced on Thursday by La Fabrique, the organization behind the management of the cemetery, confirming that the three entry points to the cemetery will be open to the public from next Monday. The reopening will officially end a long labor dispute that has paralyzed cemetery activities for more than six months.
In recent weeks, maintenance employees “have worked tirelessly, section by section” in order to “secure the premises,” says cemetery management. The numerous tree branches that had fallen to the ground during the ice storm last winter were collected. The paths were also cleared, debris having accumulated there.
However, there remain a few places that could represent “a potential danger for visitors”, concedes the Factory. These will be clearly identified to avoid the risk of falls or injuries. “That said, there remains little work to be completed on the cemetery grounds. Only 2% of the site will not yet be accessible to the public when it reopens,” maintains management.
As early as May, the Minister of Labor, Jean Boulet, increased the pressure by imploring the parties to come to an agreement, before meeting the union and management. An agreement in principle endorsed by 83% by the members of the maintenance employees union was finally ratified in July.
Cemetery maintenance employees have been without an employment contract since December 2018. For several months, users of the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery have deplored not being able to bury the ashes of their deceased loved ones due to the conflict. .
Still problems ahead?
Cremation and burial services in the crypt and in the grounds have recently resumed at the cemetery, but it will take time to get back up to speed. “The catch-up schedule will likely extend until December, if not January,” maintains La Fabrique, which says it wants to “respect the order of priority of services” which were postponed during the strike.
“Families can count on us to ensure that each burial is carried out respectfully and as quickly as possible, consistent with the capacity of our services and the availability of the families concerned. (…) Our mission will always be to offer the population a serene environment of contemplation, with respect for all the generations who have preceded us and who will follow us,” indicated Thursday the volunteer administrator of La Fabrique, Michel St- Love.
But everything is not yet settled. At the office workers’ union, which is still on strike and without an employment contract since January 2018, President Éric Dufault in turn wants a rapid settlement. “It has to move, otherwise we’re going to have more problems. The reality is that tasks like burial are still done sparsely by executives. It’s still a battle inside,” he says.
“What we want is quite simply a salary that covers inflation with salary feedback. This is a lot of what sticks with the employer right now,” adds Mr. Dufault.
It also demands that the employer guarantee an employment floor of 17 full-time people and four seasonal people. “That’s what started our strike, actually. It’s because the employer did not respect these figures, which goes against the needs of our customers,” concludes the union leader.