Called into a meeting last Thursday, student employees at Bishop Mountain Hall were notified that starting this week the majority of student employees would be experiencing reduced hours and less flexibility in terms of switching shift.
According to Director of McGill Food and Dining Service (MFDS) Mathieu Laperle, the cutbacks are a result of McGill’s contract with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the administration’s hands are tied when it comes to cutting students’ shifts.
“We have a union contract agreement, so we have to respect the contract agreement. We have a union agreement [that] we have to go by seniority… It is a normal process,” said Laperle.
Laperle added, “What we did was to renew our needs. There are more and more people who have started to use [Royal Victoria College] instead of BMH, and we’ve seen some changes in terms of the patterns and the habits of the people. So it’s a normal process. This is something we do every year because at the start of the year we don’t know the habits of the people. If there is a need [for employees] there is no problem, but if there is no need there is no need. We aren’t creating jobs just to create jobs.”
However, some student workers are less concerned about shift cutbacks than a new policy that limits the number of times a person can switch their shifts to five times a semester.
For one student, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the cuts in shifts are bringing his work in to conflict with his academics.
“The problem is that they aren’t outright firing us. What they are doing is they are giving us shifts that are impossible or really difficult to do,” he said. “They aren’t considering availability, which is an issue because ultimately I’m here to go to university, and if I were to do their shifts I would have to seriously sacrifice that.”
The limited shifts will also affect his work permit. “I am an international student and so we’re only allowed to work on campus,” he said. “To be able to work on campus you need to get a social insurance number from the Canadian government, and when they give it to you, it’s on the basis that you are going to be in an employment in a place for a certain amount of time. Also they are not just going to reissue you one if you lose your job quickly.”
Currently there are just under seventy students on schedule at BMH. This number is up from previous years when the average number of employees was around 40 or 50, according to Susan Campbell, Associate Director of Food and Hospitality Services.
Some students are wondering why MFDS would inflate the number of hires just to downsize two months into the school year.
“Basically everyone has lost shifts,” said Steve Eldon Kerr, a U2 Arts student and Daily writer employed at BMH. “They hired too many people, so they had to cut down. They have said that if you really need the money they will give you more shifts, but I just really don’t know how they are going to do that.”