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SSMU Council officially supports striking non-academic workers

VP Finance Patel announces the search for new tenants in the SSMU cafeteria

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The largest undergraduate student decision-making body at McGill, the SSMU Legislative Council, met officially for the first time last Thursday night, September 15th.

The Council’s first heavily-debated motion of the night was a resolution to support workers of the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association  (MUNACA). Authored by Education representative and former Daily Design and Production Editor Kady Paterson and Arts representative Jamie Burnett, the Council considered several amendments that brought into question the degree to which SSMU would explicitly favour MUNACA over the McGill administration.

The motion was passed with a large majority – with two dissenting votes, and one abstention – with the spirit of the original resolution remaining in tact. The resolution states that “SSMU supports a speedy resolution to the current labour dispute between MUNACA and the McGill administration insofar as it favours MUNACA.”

An announcement from SSMU VP Finance and Operations Shyam Patel made public that, after the current contract expires in May 31, 2012, new tenants would be occupying the second floor cafeteria of the SSMU building.

Currently, the space in the second floor cafeteria is occupied by subtenants of franchiser MTY Group, Cultures, Tiki-Ming, and Franx Supreme. The subtenants have no role in defining or negotiating the contract between SSMU and MTY. In his announcement, Patel spoke to the process of negotiating with MTY.

“We will not be working with this group, because in the negotiations with the group there was communications where the MTY group was not responsive,” he said.  “Our [SSMU’s] general manager tried very hard to communicate, negotiate, and compromise, but they were not as receptive.”

Negotiations broke off over the summer when MTY failed to continue contact with SSMU or SSMU’s lawyer. SSMU is contractually obliged to negotiate exclusively with MTY.

“It is unfortunate that [the subtenants] are going to go through it this way,” stated Patel. The subtenants will vacate the space as soon as SSMU’s contract with MTY expires on next spring.
During the summer, the SSMU executive conducted a non-binding call for businesses interested in occupying the space. In reference to the negotiation process with new prospective tenants, Patel said, “We want to make it as public as possible.” He called for students to speak with him personally or attend the second Legislative Council to learn more about the process of selecting tenants.

He also noted that SSMU plans to work with the new tenants to encourage hiring student workers. Patel announced some of the groups that had expressed interest in working with SSMU to occupy the space over the summer.

“The groups that we contacted include but are not limited to: Burritoville, Lola Rosa, the Green Panther, Crudessence, and La TribuTerre,” he said.

Patel added that SSMU is trying to reach out to small businesses that are student-oriented. “[SSMU wants] to introduce things that we care for, like sustainability, local purchasing and equity,” he said.

The negotiations will be conducted independently with each individual business on the basis of one contract for each tenant.

Guest speakers included Jonathan Mooney, PhD Chemistry student and representative from the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM). Mooney addressed the Council on the subject of AGSEM’s on-going negotiations with McGill and the nature of their demands.

“Our two priorities are to increase the number of TA hours and ensure that TAs receive proper training,” said Mooney. He added that “undergraduates complain that they don’t get enough attention from their TAs, and we believe that is a great concern for the quality of education here at McGill.”

AGSEM is also seeking to obtain a 3 per cent wage increase, and for the University to commit to provide paid training to first-time TAs.

Additional motions included the name change of the former McGill First Aid Service and ratifying a three-year agreement to include PGSS members in the operations of SSMU.  In exchange for comprehensive inclusion in all of SSMU’s operations, PGSS will pay annual fees to SSMU.