News | Campus union merger moves forward

AMUSE and MUNACA to maintain distinct bargaining units

On February 2, the Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE) approved a merger with another campus union, the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA), at its Annual General Meeting. As MUNACA passed a similar approval during a special General Assembly last December, the merger will move forward.

The merger comes more than two years after AMUSE and MUNACA initially began working on the proposal. Since then, they have met over twenty times between themselves and with delegates of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), and have hosted seven information sessions downtown and on MacDonald campus.

During the meeting, MUNACA President Kevin Whittaker explained that the merger is intended to unite the administrations of AMUSE and MUNACA, whose employees share similar work, allowing them to better communicate with one another and more effectively serve their members.

Whittaker said that the merger is also a response to the overall “casualization” of the workforce at McGill, whereby the long-term, higher-paying jobs of MUNACA members have been replaced by casual employees who earn less and don’t receive benefits.

The merger proposal cites a drop in permanent employees from 1,600 workers in 2009 to only 1,300 workers in 2014, as well an increase in casual employees from 1,050 workers in 2009 to 1,400 workers in 2014, as evidence of this.

“It just isn’t fair to the individuals that are doing the work that they’re not getting benefits for,” said Whittaker. “If we are both working on the same team […] we can act on it immediately.”

“It just isn’t fair to the individuals that are doing the work that they’re not getting benefits for,” said Whittaker. “If we are both working on the same team […] we can act on it immediately.”

The merger will combine the administration of these two unions into a conjoint Union Council while maintaining three separate bargaining units: MUNACA members, casual workers under AMUSE, and floor fellows under AMUSE.

In a presentation with Whittaker, AMUSE President Amber Gross explained that the proposed Union Council will have a President, a VP Finance, and a VP Communications and Mobilization voted on by all members; a VP for each of the three bargaining units; and additional seats distributed among the three bargaining units.

Whittaker said that the unions aim to have an assembly for all members to vote on universal bylaws in the spring, and to have a fully functioning merged union by the Fall 2015 semester.

Merger causes concern for some

Some present at the meeting expressed concern that MUNACA, a much older and more-established union, would “swallow up” the younger, less grounded AMUSE.

Gross noted that this concern had been accounted for in the structure of the Union Council. “Based on hours worked, MUNACA should have way more representation than what is in this proposal,” she said.

Arne Nelson, a History and International Development Studies major and AMUSE member, told The Daily that he was concerned about the merger, as the needs of MUNACA and AMUSE employees might be very different.

“One of the reasons this really appealed to us is it gave us a chance to have access to this institutional memory to really better support our employees.”

During the meeting, Nelson noted that it had taken months for AMUSE to get in touch with him after his hire, and that it might not be fair to host a merger vote when there are AMUSE employees who might not be informed as to how the change would affect them.

Gross and Whittaker acknowledged that there is often a significant delay between when a person is hired and when the University informs AMUSE or MUNACA of the hire.

“McGill truly does go out of its way to make sure [the unions] don’t get that information, because they don’t want us talking to you,” said Whittaker.

Gross said that the merger might help to combat this problem because MUNACA employees, who are usually at their jobs for longer, are more likely to notice new casual employees and notify AMUSE.

Whittaker also noted that problems with McGill often drag on for years, such as the pay equity adjustments issues that have been ongoing for over a decade. He said that because MUNACA members are generally at McGill longer than AMUSE members, they are in a better place to keep tabs on problems that are occurring over a longer time period.

“One of the reasons this really appealed to us is it gave us a chance to have access to this institutional memory to really better support our employees,” said Gross.

Associate Vice-Principal (Human Resources) Lynne Gervais told The Daily in an email that McGill does not think the merger will affect negotiations. “We expect that our relationship with them will not be changed by this event.”


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