On Monday January 9, the Association of McGill University Support Employees’ (AMUSE) membership ratified a new collective agreement with the University. As the ratification vote is legally binding, AMUSE members were the only ones allowed to be present during the vote, but it is reported that the vote passed with 84 per cent of those present in favour.
The union represents a network of casual and temporary employees on campus: 85 per cent of AMUSE’s membership consists of student employees. The collective agreement will expire on May 31, 2020.
A second collective agreement
The union has been without a collective agreement with the University since May 2015, over a year and half ago. Frustration with the University’s intransigence over a $15 minimum wage for AMUSE employees resulted in the union adopting a strike mandate in late October, resulting in a five day strike from October 29 to November 2.
“The new Collective Agreement will come into effect as soon as it is signed by the two parties — likely in the next few weeks, and changes to pay, job classifications, and other working conditions will come into effect immediately thereafter,” reads a press release on AMUSE’s website.
“The new Collective Agreement will come into effect as soon as it is signed by the two parties — likely in the next few weeks, and changes to pay, job classifications, and other working conditions will come into effect immediately thereafter.”
Claire Michela, president of AMUSE, told The Daily in an interview that she hopes the agreement will be signed before February.
Until then, AMUSE has released a “Ratification Kit” detailing all of the collective agreement’s newest provisions, including pay increases, changes to membership list dissemination, and renewed efforts regarding Work Study programs and identification access cards.
The ratification of a new collective agreement will see a rise in minimum wages for all employees within Unit A. Other AMUSE employees, like Floor Fellows in McGill residences, fall under Unit B.
Class A employees’ minimum wage will go from $10.85 an hour to $13.75 an hour, a 26.73 per cent increase in salary for many employees. Class B and C employees’ minimum wage will also increase to $13.75, but will increase incrementally in the years to come.
Under the new collective agreement, both AMUSE and the University have agreed to “organize a meeting twice a year” (once in the Summer term, and once in the Winter term of every academic year) to “discuss topics of mutual interest relative to the Work Study program as it applies to employees covered by this Collective Agreement,” according to the “Ratification Kit.”
Those present at the meetings will include the Director of McGill’s Office of Scholarships and Student Aid, members of AMUSE’s leadership, and students who are part of the Work Study program.
Prior to entering into negotiations with the University, AMUSE had made its dissatisfaction with the Work Study program clear.
“The agenda would potentially include topics like the posting of assignments and the duration of postings on the Work Study website,” reads the “Ratification Kit.” These were both issues students who had participated in Work Study commonly complained of.
In addition to meetings regarding Work Study, the University has agreed, in coordination with AMUSE, to “establish a joint committee to discuss and review the feasibility of access to identification cards for non-student employees.” This was another of AMUSE’s main bargaining priorities.
The mandate of said committee would be to “discuss and review the current process relative to identification cards for non-student employees covered by this Collective Agreement and to allow non-student employees to have access to Identification Cards.”
The committee would in theory eventually provides McGill’s Human Resources and Security Services recommendations “to the current arrangement relative to the issuance of identification cards for purposes of on-campus identification, workplace access and uPrint privileges as required.”
According to Michela, this committee was struck because the University implied it would be difficult logistically or with the system they work with to provide ID cards for non-student employees.
However, she noted that the committee would “have the time and energy to go into those specific details that they did not want to go into during negotiations […] and hopefully would have the strength to make some changes.”
In the past, AMUSE’s leadership has had difficulty communicating with the union’s membership. For example, in the past some employees have not known they were part of AMUSE.
Under the new collective agreement, the union will now receive their membership list every month. Previously, they only received it three times per year. The University has six months to reprogram their systems to generate said list.
While the ratification vote passed with a majority voting in favor of the collective agreement, many AMUSE employees still fear for their employment.
Last November, bookstore employees (who fall under AMUSE) received an email from their employers announcing that the store’s move from McTavish to the new Sherbrooke and Parc locations will prompt a reorganization of how part time employees are scheduled. As opposed to having regular part-time schedules, “casuals” will now only be scheduled during peak periods, drastically reducing their hours.
“We’re happy with the agreement and excited for the change of minimum wage in February,” said a group of bookstore employees in a statement to The Daily, “however bookstore employees are still concerned over our future employment status.”
Last semester, many bookstore employees felt that the reorganization was due in part to the new collective bargaining agreement. However, a letter obtained by The Daily revealed that the administration has rejected that claim. McGill’s Director of Employee and Labor Relations told an AMUSE executive that “the University’s decision to manage the casual’s schedule differently is not related whatsoever to the current tentative agreement with AMUSE.”
In addition to bookstore employees, many floor fellows have begun to fear for their own livelihoods.
Last week, the Human Resources subcommittee of the McGill Board of Governors vetoed an agreement the University had reached with AMUSE’s bargaining team regarding Floor Fellow negotiations last December, which would feature heightened salaries for Floor Fellows in McGill residences.
“The Human Resources Committee has proven that the word of its own labour negotiators is hollow,” said Michela in a subcommittee meeting not open to the public. “By reneging on commitments made at the bargaining table, you have lost our respect and damaged our trusts.”
AMUSE has publically stated that it has calculated that the committee’s concerns with the proposed Floor Fellow negotiations amount to $151,000 annually.
“If the University was committed to respecting this agreement and to respecting Floor Fellows, we believe that you would be able to find such a sum in the University’s budget,” Michela concluded.