The group campaigning to unionize McGill’s undergraduate student workers is now appealing to SSMU employees to join the union as well.
About 40 students work for SSMU, employed at Gert’s, Haven Books, or within various administrative offices. According to students organizing the Association of Undergraduate Students Employed at McGill’s (AMUSE), the membership of SSMU employees would help the union reach their membership quota and benefit the employees themselves.
Max Silverman, former SSMU VP External Affairs, who is involved in AMUSE organization, hopes the union will provide a voice for employees to express their concerns.
“The biggest issue for SSMU employees is the lack of clearly defined structure to deal with labour issues and concerns,” Silverman said. “I hope we can provide a clear framework that will give workers a place to turn outside of their current employers.”
SSMU employees approached AMUSE about the possibility of their membership.
SSMU declined to comment, noting that the Quebec Labour Code forbids employers from making judgments about union formation, but Silverman assumes they would be responsive.
According to the Quebec Labour Code, AMUSE must sign 35 per cent of all undergraduate workers at McGill before holding a referendum in which all employees will vote to make the union official. If over 50 per cent of employees sign, the union can be created automatically without a vote.
Hoping to attract more workers, including SSMU employees, AMUSE sponsored a free pizza and beer event at Gert’s on Thursday night.
Because SSMU employees technically work for SSMU, and not the administration, they would form a distinct group within AMUSE if they join. The two groups would have a loose affiliation, each with their own respective agendas and decision-making processes.
Employees of SSMU have cited fewer problems with their positions than their McGill counterparts. A SSMU employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said his experience working with SSMU was positive, noting that the organization’s small size allows for much more intimate relations with managers and the SSMU administration.
“The working environment here is much more personal and there have been few issues with our employers. There just isn’t the same bureaucracy present as at University,” he said.
The worker did admit that a union could help SSMU employees when mediating conflicts with managers.
“Problems are dealt with through the manager, but if for example you have a problem with the manager, there is not any obvious person to turn to,” he added.
The McGill administration has had tense relations with its unions over the past year. The teaching assistant union went on strike last spring over higher wages and other demands.
Currently, they University is refusing to release a list of all undergraduates employed by the University to AMUSE. AMUSE must therefore seek out all those employed to reach its 35 per cent signature minimum requirement.