McGill’s new contract with Swedish-based security agency Securitas came into effect Tuesday, despite allegations that the firm is involved in poor labour practices.
Securitas have been at McGill since mid-May after the University cancelled their existing contract with their former security company, the Bureau canadien d’investigation et d’ajustement. The Executive Committee of the Board of Governors (BoG) first approved the companies new contract on December 14, after the firm sent in a bid in reply to McGill Procurement Service’s call for tender.
Securitas Canada has been criticized since August 2010 for sending letters to its Halifax workers dissuading them from unionizing.
These letters violate the international agreement Securitas signed with Union Network International, and with the Swedish Transport Workers Union in 2006, in which it promised to aid employees in forming unions.
Dave Bush, an employee of the Service Employees International Union in Halifax, is working with Securitas employees on a campaign to get Securitas to honour this agreement.
Although reluctant to be quoted, as the campaign is still in its early stages, he spoke of the general proceedings.
“Basically we’re sitting on a list of violations [of the international agreement],” he said over the phone. “But we want to wait for the right time. …My hands are tied.”
Elise Graham, Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students Nova Scotia, commented on the importance of unionization for security guards on university campuses.
“I am part of the student union at NSCAD [Nova Scotia College of Art and Design], so obviously we believe that unionized workers and unionized students are stronger together than they are un-unionized,” she said.
“Here at NSCAD we have 24-hour access to our campuses so students can go into our studios and work in our studios and use the equipment for school. So we have security guards during the evenings and we know that having unionized workers would mean more stability in their jobs, we’d be seeing the same workers time and time again, and we could develop a relationship with them,” she added.
When asked whether the labour allegations affected McGill Security Services’ decision to employ Securitas Canada, Pierre Barbarie, Associate Director of Security Services, said, “We look at the company on how best they can provide the services we need, and that’s how we base our decisions.”
Barbarie said that the reason for choosing Securitas rested on its scale.
“Securitas is a renowned company all over the world,” said Barbarie. “It has contracts all over the world, agents all over the world. … So in order to attract the best possible candidates in terms of agents, they’re definitely a huge player in that.”
Barbarie and Security Services chose Securitas in conjunction with McGill’s Procurement Services department. The BoG has not yet officially approved the decision, as they have not met since the contract was awarded.
SSMU President Zach Newburgh anticipated that the contract would be brought up for review at the next BoG meeting, as the Executive Committee would be required to submit a report.
In an email to The Daily, PGSS president and BoG member Alexandra Bishop wrote, “The basics of the contract were presented to the BoG Executive Committee by Michael Di Grappa, Vice-Principal Administration and Finance on December 14 and approved. Previous consultation included the Selection Committee involved with the public call for tender, Legal Services and Procurement Services.”
“I do not know what will be in the report to the BoG beyond the basics that the Executive Committee recommended the approval of the contract,” she continued.
She also stated that Securitas’s was the only bid received.