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Support employees welcome floor fellows into their union

AMUSE adds bargaining unit, talks MUNACA merger at general meeting

Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE) members made a number of bylaw changes at a special general meeting on May 29, in order to accommodate the addition of a floor fellow bargaining unit. A draft proposal for a merger with the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) was also announced at the meeting.

On May 6, after a union drive that began in November 2013, McGill’s floor fellows’ request to unionize under AMUSE was accepted by the Commission des relations du travail. Floor fellows are upper-year McGill students who provide live-in support for first year students in residences. Several bylaw changes were made during the meeting, the most notable of which established the floor fellows as a second bargaining unit within the union.

The floor fellow unit will hold its own general meeting each year to select its representatives. Since the floor fellows begin their jobs in the fall, the meeting will most likely be held then instead of in the winter, according to AMUSE Internal Affairs Molly Swain.

Vice President Floor Fellows Allison Jones – whose position was formally created at the meeting – told The Daily that the summer would largely be spent on bargaining preparations.

“Before we can go into bargaining with McGill, we need to have a draft version of our ideal collective agreement,” Jones explained. “We’re also going to be doing a lot of research about what other collective agreements look like that might be comparable to ours. For example, at other universities where the floor fellow equivalents are unionized, what do their collective agreements look like?”

The unit will also be holding outreach events for new floor fellows who may be unfamiliar with the unionization and bargaining process.

Bylaw adjustments were also made to add two standing committees: one for floor fellows, and one for replacement workers (AMUSE members who replace MUNACA employees on leave).

“The union has been weighted heavily toward [non-replacement] workers, and we’re trying to change that,” said Swain. “We want to make sure that MUNACA replacement workers’ issues are being heard […] especially once we get into bargaining.”

AMUSE President Amber Gross announced that a draft proposal for a merger between AMUSE and MUNACA will be released in the coming week. The draft proposal will be subject to feedback from members at monthly information sessions throughout the summer and fall, and, if received positively, will result in a final proposal in December or January.

The final proposal would then have to be approved, by vote, by both AMUSE and MUNACA at their respective general meetings. If approved, joint bylaws would be determined next March or April.

Gross explained to The Daily that AMUSE and MUNACA workers are distinguished by whether their position is temporary or permanent. “MUNACA’s bargaining unit is defined as workers at McGill who are permanent staff and who are doing permanent jobs. They tend to be full-time, but [are] not always. AMUSE, the original unit [excluding the floor fellows], is casuals. So, we’re doing work that is temporary, seasonal, [or] fills a need that couldn’t be filled by a [permanent] position.”

According to Gross, a merger has been under consideration since the MUNACA strike in 2011.

“AMUSE members had to keep working during the strike, because they weren’t on strike, and it caused a lot of problems for the strike in that MUNACA’s strike wasn’t as effective because [AMUSE members] were able to keep working.”

Speaking to the potential effects of the merger on AMUSE members, Labour Relations Officer Agatha Slupek outlined the possible benefits of the merger.

“Right now, if someone from MUNACA is on developmental leave, for example […] they have someone from AMUSE replacing them. There are no guidelines for when [the MUNACA member] comes back [as to] what happens to the casual employee. So we’re hoping to establish more security,” said Slupek.

Slupek added that, since AMUSE is such a young union – it was accredited in December 2009 – easier access to MUNACA’s legal resources and expertise could make its work quicker and more effectively.

Gross emphasized that a merger would unite workers who often do similar work under one organization. “The idea is, we all do non-academic support work, and this distinction between casual and permanent [employees] is creating [a] two-tier [system].”