Research employees approve new contract

Contract has pay increases, reforms for casual employees

Nearly two and a half years after being organized into a union, the Association of McGill University Research Employees (AMURE) voted yesterday to ratify their first collective bargaining agreement.

Once signed, all members of the association will see a 3.2 per cent salary increase across the first two years, and a minimum 1.7 per cent increase in the following year.

In addition to the across-the-board increases, the contract establishes minimum salary levels for all employees. Casual employees will immediately see a minimum hourly salary of $11.18.

Full and part-time research associates, on the other hand, who typically have PhDs, will see a minimum hourly salary of $22.75. Assistants, usually working with Master’s degrees, will make a minimum hourly salary of $19.75.

Current salary rates for research employees are determined on an ad-hoc basis by research directors, and vary across departments.

In June 2015, a tiered salary rate will be implemented according to merit.

Full and part-time employees will also see increases in vacation time, up from two to three weeks a year. Employees of seven or more years will be entitled to five weeks vacation.

Currently, full-time research employees are eligible for tuition discounts for family members. Under the new contract, regular employees working at least 25 hours a week will be eligible for the same benefits.

While the new AMURE contract won’t be officially signed for a few weeks, the tentative agreement was overwhelmingly ratified by the membership. The union is split into two bargaining units, one for research assistants and one for research associates, which voted 96 and 95 per cent respectively in favour of the contract.

When signed, the new contracts will represent over 1,200 workers, according to AMURE’s president, Matthew Annis.

The contract is the culmination of over a year’s worth of negotiations, as bargainers first sat down with the University in January 2012.

Annis said that he is most proud of the protections achieved for casual employees, such as vacation premiums and written contracts.

The union was unable, however, to achieve reforms for what Annis called “false casuals,” or casuals that have been working at McGill for years and work enough hours to qualify as part-time employees, but are still classified as casuals and thus earn less money.

The negotiations were overseen by provincial arbitration last fall, after almost a year at the bargaining table. Previously, research employees had only been able to voice their concerns through the McGill Association of University Teachers (MAUT), Annis said.

“This is the first time we’ve had a unified voice,” he said.

There are still two groups of workers – invigilators and course lecturers – who have unionized but have yet to see a contract.