A union for undergraduate on-campus student workers appears to be one step closer to realization, thanks to the recent acquisition of 50 per cent of undergraduate student workers’ signatures.
With them, the Association of McGill Undergraduate Student Employees (AMUSE) has a sufficient number of signatures as required by Quebec labour law to apply for accreditation with the Quebec Labour Relations Board – which means it can become an official union.
“We’re waiting right now [for accreditation],” said Max Silverman, former SSMU VP External Affairs and current AMUSE organizer. “It could come in the next couple of weeks or at the end of the semester; we’re not really sure.”
This hurdle has been a relief to organizers, who were forced to work without a list of the approximately 3,000 undergraduate students employed at McGill after the administration refused to provide them with a list of undergraduate student workers.
Deputy Provost Morton Mendelson defended McGill’s actions in an email to The Daily.
“The University takes its obligation to maintain the confidentiality of students very seriously. A group such as AMUSE did not have the right to see lists of students employed at McGill,” he wrote. “Unless obliged by law, the University could not, in fact, provide such information to a third party about a student, without the written consent of the student.”
As a result of McGill’s initiatives, AMUSE turned to enlisting students’ signatures one by one around campus.
“On the one hand, it was time consuming, and on the other hand it was really irritating,” said Silverman. “We felt bad having to walk up to people.”
Despite the tediousness of the operation, AMUSE was eventually succesful.
“[The strategy to acquire signatures] has been really effective,” said Silverman. “Students have responded really well.”
But the arrival of a new union at McGill could mean even more labour disputes for McGill – in the past year the University has faced a strike by the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM) and a strike by the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Assocation (MUNACA) seems likely.
Despite McGill’s current lack of cooperation with AMUSE, Mendelson anticipated a warm relationship between McGill and AMUSE, should they become an official union.
“If AMUSE is indeed certified under the Quebec Labour Code, the University will fulfill its obligations under the Code,” said Mendelson. “McGill’s labour relations are, indeed, very good; most labour contracts have been settled without disruptions over the past several decades.”
Given the ambiguity surrounding AMUSE’s potential accreditation, a specific date has not been assigned as to when the union could be up-and-running. They have, however, been able to clearly state their functions.
“We will do representational work, like grievances and harassment in the workplace,” Silverman said. “And we’ll also have a collective agreement, a contract that involves everyone in the union, that will handle [things like] working hours, wages, and benefits.”
Silverman also said that until a collective agreement is signed and students start receiving benefits, they won’t have to pay union dues.
For the moment, however, the future of AMUSE remains in limbo. A hearing regarding its application is scheduled at the Quebec Labour Relations Board on February 2.
“Everything’s up in the air right now,” Silverman said. “But there will be some movement within the semester.”