Montreal cemetery breaks down negotiations with union as it balances being employer of choice with sustainability

A cemetery in the spring, with flowers popping up. Photo: Pixabay/Pexels
By Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery

The Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal manages two main assets: Notre-Dame de Montréal Basilica and Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery. Since the beginning of negotiations with the union representing its operations employees, the Cemetery has sought to reach a reasonable agreement to continue to treat its employees well while ensuring the Cemetery’s continuity for the benefit of the families of the deceased who rest on its grounds.

As the employer, it has also consistently cooperated with the conciliator appointed by the Ministry of Labour.

Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery is an employer of choice, offering all its employees a comprehensive compensation package, including wages and benefits, that is unparalleled in the industry. The current situation can be summarized as follows:

In 2021, permanent operations employees received a base salary of over $30.50 an hour, and those who worked during the whole year enjoyed:

  • An overall average salary of $68,249,(including overtime);
  • A four-day work week, Monday to Thursday, from 7.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.;
  • A salary for 37.5 hours despite working only 36 hours;
  • Six (6) weeks annual vacation (average seniority: 23 years);
  • 15 days statutory leave (10 statutory holidays + 5 floating days);
  • 12 cashable sick days per year;
  • Various bonuses depending on the tasks performed;
  • A defined benefit pension plan to which the employee contributes 5% of their gross salary, while the employer adds up to 18.6% of the same gross salary, for a total annual payment of up to $14,000 per employee;
  • A full range of insurance benefits, including short- and long-term disability, medication, dental and other therapeutic services, and life insurance. Employee contribution, 33.33%; employer contribution, 66.67%;

In total, the compensation represents more than $45 an hour for each permanent employee.

Wage increase of more than 15% – In January 2023, while aiming to conclude a new collective agreement, the Cemetery presented the following to Operations Union representatives: an honest and reasonable wage increase of more than 15% for a five-year period. This includes increases of 3% retroactive to 2022, 3% on January 1, 2023, and 3% on January 1, 2024, 2.75% on January 1, 2025, and 2.5% on January 1, 2026. An additional lump-sum payment of $3,500 to each permanent operations employee and $2,400 to each seasonal employee was also proposed. With these salary increases, compensation would represent an hourly rate of almost $35, which represents a total compensation of $52 an hour for each permanent employee.

The Cemetery manages an outstanding space that offers a healthy, natural, and safe work environment, as well as free parking, gym equipment and outdoor picnic tables, and all uniforms required for work or an annual allowance of $424 for permanent operations employees. The Cemetery remains an employer of choice as the average seniority of regular operating employees was 23 years in 2022.

The Cemetery regrets that an indefinite general strike has been called despite the consequences for many families of the deceased. The Cemetery is working to minimize the impact of this strike on its operations and provide the best possible service to bereaved families.

The Cemetery’s revenues, which come from said bereaved families, are used primarily to pay the salaries of its employees, which is why the Cemetery wishes to conclude an agreement with the operations union as soon as possible to continue its mission while ensuring its sustainability.

About Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery
The Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal is an NPO that manages the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery and the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal. Since its founding in 1854, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery has welcomed close to one million deceased persons in a unique site that is recognized as the largest cemetery in Canada, measuring 343 acres. A national historic site, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery is a place of peace and remembrance, and is considered a jewel of Montreal’s architectural, historical, arboreal, and environmental heritage. For more information, visit: cimetierenotredamedesneiges.ca.

SOURCE Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery