On January 12, the Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE) released a video on their Facebook page, showing AMUSE President Claire Michela interrupting the breakfast meeting of the Human Resources subcommittee of the McGill Board of Governors.
She denounced the University’s decision to renege on an agreement with AMUSE’s bargaining team regarding Floor Fellow negotiations: the agreement had been reached through the use of an independent arbiter last December. Among other features, it stipulated salaries for Floor Fellows in McGill residences.
In an email to The Daily, Michela confirmed that the University rescinded the agreement, adding that “the University’s decision to renege on a previous agreement is something that’s never happened before. It is considered extremely serious in labour law to go back on a previous agreement, big or small.”
“The fact that the University backed out was delivered to us as information that the article on salaries had been rejected, unfortunately without justification,” she elaborated.
Robert Comeau, McGill’s Director of Labour and Employee Relations, told The Daily in an email that an agreement was reached in the last meeting with the arbitrator, “conditional on McGill’s ratification.”
“The arbitrator asked that McGill review the tentative agreement and come back with their decision before she would render her own decision,” he continued.
As the University vetoed the agreement, Comeau said both the University and AMUSE will begin new negotiations through the arbitrator.
According to Michela, AMUSE’s parent union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) has hired legal counsel since the subcommittee’s decision to veto the agreement.
Despite the setback, communication between AMUSE and the University is taking place through “several lines of communication,” in Michela’s words.
“Some have been through [PSAC] to the University directly,” she elaborated. “We are also working on getting arbitration dates as soon as possible with the arbitrator.”
According to Comeau, the arbitrator has scheduled hearings for February 6; however, “it is too early to say when [a collective agreement] will occur.”
When asked whether AMUSE will bring any charges against the University, Michela responded that “we are evaluating all options in addition to arbitration.”
Floor Fellows’ reactions
Many Floor Fellows are disappointed with the University’s decision to veto the agreement.
Michela said that she has heard from both past and current Floor Fellows, who “feel frustrated about what has happened, but [feel] supported by what AMUSE is doing in response.”
In a statement to The Daily, Isabelle Oke, Floor Fellows Vice President and representative for AMUSE, added that “the reactions I’ve gotten have been a lot of disappointment but not overwhelming surprise; this latest move by McGill is inconsiderate of the time and work we put into this job, but it also isn’t uncharacteristic behaviour.”