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New union prepares for collective bargaining with McGill

Research employees struggling to contact members, begin negotiations

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McGill’s newest union, the Association of McGill University Research Employees (AMURE) is gearing up to initiate collective bargaining with the University in the coming months.

They will be holding an information assembly on April 7 at Moot Court to discuss effects of their recent unionization and to consult with members on demands for collective bargaining with McGill.

The information assembly will be the first time that all members of the union – both research associates and research assistants – will be meeting.

Matthew Annis, president of AMURE, stated in an email to The Daily that the research employees have had “common grievances and concerns, including salaries and working conditions, for a very long time.”

Negotiations for AMURE’s first collective agreement with the University are due to begin in the next few months. Both sides hope to begin negotiating in June.

Lynne Gervais, McGill associate vice-president (Human Resources), stated that until a date is set McGill will not be able to release its collective agreement proposal to AMURE or the members that will be on the committee. AMURE will be sending out questionnaires to all research employees to ascertain their demands.

The administration is also currently involved in collective agreement negotiations with the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM), the Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE) and the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA).

Prior to unionization, research employees dealt with issues either directly with their supervisors, or with the McGill administration. While there are options to have disputes mediated by Advocacy McGill or the McGill Ombudsperson, not all staff and students were made aware of these options.

McGill initially opposed the union of these two groups. AMURE was accredited July 15, 2010 for research associates. Research assistants were included following a referendum December 20, 2010. The two will comprise separate units within the union, with separate collective agreements. With the inclusion of the research assistants, AMURE now represents approximately 1,100 members.

McGill’s dedication to fostering research makes the unionization of the RAs especially significant. McGill receives more than $432 million annually in research funding.

The campaign to unionize was initiated in June 2008 in collaboration with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).  PSAC has been involved with research employee unions at the Univeristé de Montréal and Concordia. Annis stated that the experience with the Syndicat des employé(e)s de la recherche de l’Université de Montréal – the research employee union at Université de Montréal formed last year – proved that unionization of research employees was possible and provided a precedent for AMURE.

AMURE has had difficulties contacting all research employees to inform them of the union since McGill has not yet provided a comprehensive list of employees.  AGSEM and AMUSE have also encountered this difficulty.

Gervais explained in an email to The Daily, that they “provide all unions with monthly membership report…but we can only give them what we have in our system. It is the employee responsibility to keep his/her personal information up-to-date.”

Annis explained the future role of AMURE as to “represent the interests of its members with a united voice to McGill.”

According to Annis, the union will also function as “a forum to deal with grievances, fight for gender parity with respect to wages, job security, and build relationships with similar university unions across Quebec.”

Since AMURE’s certification, members have already come forward with a number of grievances, which are taken up by union staff.