Not one to give up easily, the Association for McGill Undergraduate Student Employees (AMUSE) has regrouped, and is once again preparing to apply for union accreditation to represent all non-academic casual employees – or “casuals” – employed at McGill.
The union’s organizers have been soliciting support from casual employees on McGill’s campuses since September. They requested union accreditation in December, when they believed they had acquired the signatures of 35 per cent of casual employees.
“Non-academic casuals include everything from cow milkers on the Macdonald campus, to bookstore employees, to library shelvers, to office replacements,” said Max Silverman, former SSMU VP External Affairs and current AMUSE organiser.
McGill’s administration suggested that non-students should be included in the union as well, on the grounds that many student and non-student casuals do similar work on campus. AMUSE acceded, and temporarily withdrew their application.
“We’ve met many managers on campus who think this is a great idea. It’ll mean that the workplace is a lot more structured and that there are more rules in place,” said Silverman.
Since withdrawing their first application, AMUSE has received signed union cards from over 35 per cent of all student and non-student non-academic casuals – the minimum required to gain union accreditation from the Quebec Labour Relations Board. They anticipate that their application will be submitted within a couple of months.
“The goal is to extend the benefits and protections of unionization to every student who works on campus,” Silverman stated.
Casual workers would be granted certain job protections after creating a union, including written contracts, access to grievance procedures, salary increases, and benefits through a collective agreement mechanism.
The Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM) is assisting AMUSE in its efforts by signing up invigilators and salaried graduate research assistants, along with graders and markers.
But not all workers believe that joining a union will benefit them.
“I love my job, I think I get paid well, and I can get days off when I need to,” said Alexis Zimberg, a McGill Bookstore employee. “It’s not a benefit to join a union when I’m graduating in December.”
AMUSE organizers have admitted that they don’t know what workers would demand from the union, but now that they have 35 per cent of required signatures, they expect to hold a referendum vote by ballot.
Zimberg was also critical of the methods union organizers used to sign up workers, explaining that she received numerous calls from them even when she asked to be taken off their list.
“I don’t have a problem with what they’re doing, I have a problem with how they’re doing it,” Zimberg said. “They come up to you when you’re alone, or in the library, or on a date – it’s so intrusive.”
AMUSE will eventually include academic as well as non-academic casuals, but still has not filed for their unionization, partly because they were unsure of whether or not they had already received signatures from 35 per cent of them.
with files from Alison Withers