News  Research employee union to implement abuse counselling services

Labour casualization leaves employees vulnerable, says union

The Association of McGill Research Employees (AMURE) passed a motion at its January 21 General Assembly (GA) to implement a domestic violence and sexual abuse counselling service for its members.

AMURE President Sean Cory told The Daily that there were two main justifications behind the pilot project: the heightened emphasis on issues of sexual assault – in the context of the student-led development of a sexual assault policy at McGill – and the lack of benefits available to casual employees at the university.

Casual employees, hired on a contractual basis, do not generally have access to employment benefits or assistance. AMURE estimates that nearly 50 per cent of all employees at McGill are casuals without access to benefits. “We could not sit back and let our members be without anywhere to turn […] we passed this motion to look at providing counselling to some of our members who would have nowhere else to turn,” said Cory in an email.

The service, which will provide anonymous access to counselling, will undergo a one-year trial period, during which it will be funded by AMURE’s savings. According to Cory, the project’s future funding source will be determined by how frequently it is used by members.

“It’s hard to say how much it will be used by our members, but we’ll give it a shot,” said Cory. If the service is widely used and presents too large of a financial burden to be sustained through savings, AMURE may ask members to vote on a dues increase to cover it.

According to Cory, the pilot project has a lot of support from AMURE members thus far, and the motion passed almost unanimously.

Impact of labour casualization

Last November, Provost Anthony Masi announced that McGill would implement a hiring freeze for administrative and support staff to help mitigate the effects of provincial budget cuts. However, according to Cory, this hiring freeze is with respect to ‘regular’ (non-casual) employees, and does not preclude the hiring of casual labour.

“[The administration still] call[s] it a hiring freeze, and in some ways this shows what they think of casual labour,” said Cory, who noted that AMURE had seen a member employed for twenty years at McGill through a series of one-year casual contracts.

“There’s a severe gap [in support] when a person could be working forty hours a week for the university on a year-long contract, and McGill does not lift a finger or spend a dime towards their emotional health and well-being. We decided that, at least for these cases, we should try to do something.”

McGill Director of Labour and Employee Relations Robert Comeau did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment.