AMUSE files injuction in support of Floor Fellows
Motion submitted on behalf of Floor Fellows
On February 7, the Association of Mcgill University Support Support Employees (AMUSE) announced in a press release that they have filed a motion in Quebec’s Superior Court on behalf of Floor Fellows. The motion is an injunction to require the University to pay Floor Fellows immediately, which would make the case an emergency.
The motion comes following the University’s decision to veto an agreement with AMUSE’S bargaining team regarding Floor Fellows in late January. The agreement had been reached through an independent arbitrator in December 2016. Among other aspects, the agreement had stipulated salaries for Floor Fellows.
A motion several years in the making
In an interview with The Daily, AMUSE President Claire Michela said that AMUSE and Floor Fellows decided to take the issue to court because “it’s been several years that we’ve been trying to negotiate for a collective agreement and the injunction’s purpose is to make things, specifically the payment of Floor Fellows, happen immediately.”
“It’s been long enough, they’ve waited long enough,” Michela continued. “It’s time for justice for them.”
Isabelle Oke, AMUSE VP Floor Fellows, told The Daily in an email that “the action was about accountability, keeping Mcgill accountable for the time they wasted in bargaining by not providing [the administration’s] team with a clear mandate, and backing out of an agreement in a way that broke negotiation conventions.”
The motion itself is an individual recourse, which means that it has not been filed as a collective representing all Floor Fellows. Instead, individual Floor Fellows have signed onto a declaration agreeing to be part of the injunction.
Michela noted that 35 out of seventy total Floor Fellows have signed onto the motion, “which makes it quite strong.”
Oke added that she thinks the proportion of Floor Fellows supporting the motion “shows how fiercely determined we are to make Mcgill move towards equitable labour practices and acknowledge the role Floor Fellows play in residence.”
When asked about the Floor Fellows’ reaction to the legal action, Oke said that “reactions were a mix of enthusiasm, anticipation, and ner- vous apprehension because of the big steps we’re taking and the multiple outcomes it could lead to.”
Another Floor Fellow, Helen Ogundeji, told The Daily via email that “it’s great to know that the union reps are continuing to pursue Floor Fellows’ interests. As someone who is not part of the active mobilizing on [AMUSE’S] end, it is comforting to know that there are people who are consistently on our side and ready to figure out the next steps in this ongoing battle.”
Other unions, particularly Mcgill University Non-academic Certified Association (MUNACA), have supported AMUSE’S legal actions.
According to Michela, MUNACA will publish AMUSE’S letter to the Human Resources committee of the Board of Governors on its website. MUNACA has also published a Journal de Montreal article discussing AMUSE’S legal action.
“I spoke out at a couple of stewards meetings that they had about it, so they’re really showing solidarity with us and they’re flabbergasted that this [the University reneging on the agreement] would happen,” Michela said. “I can’t imagine it happening to any other group.”
The injunction hearing
On Thursday February 9, the injunction hearing took place.
In an email to The Daily, Michela said, “The judge did not accept that it was an emergency, because we could have filed an injunction at any point between May 2014, when Floor Fellows were accredited (and not getting paid), to now.”
“However, the judge decided that there should be an interlocutory hearing, which should take place in short order, with more information from both sides,” Michela added.
She added that dates have been set to gather more information and there will be another hearing on May 5, where “a decision should be rendered as to whether Floor Fellows should be paid before the collective agreement is finalized in arbitration.”
According to Michela, this is a short time frame for a court to make a decision.
When asked whether AMUSE chose to take legal action because lines of communication with the administration had broken down, Michela said that lines of communication remain open.
“There was an official meeting between the arbitrator, the University, and our representative this Monday, February 6, so those lines of communication are still open,” she explained, “but the University doesn’t see our side, our point of view, at all.”
Michela noted that there are dates set up for arbitration hearings, but “we have shown that we are unhappy with what’s happened in the recent past.”
With the injunction declared a non-emergency, AMUSE is planning mobilization efforts.
“The mobilization is hopefully going to be really visible and we’re going to try to get a lot of student support,” Michela said.
“I think to Floor Fellows the most important thing is justice. It’s not necessarily getting paid per se, they do what they do because they’re amazing people. But I think we have decided to proceed this way because it’s the strongest course of legal action we can take right now,” she concluded.
When asked to comment, Mcgill’s Director of Internal Communications Doug Sweet told The Daily that “the University never comments on matters before the courts or on labour negotiations that are in progress.”
“It’s been long enough, they’ve waited long enough. It’s time for justice for them.” —Claire Michela AMUSE President “[The number of Foor Fellows] shows how fiercely determined we are to make Mcgill move towards equitable labour practices and acknolwedge the role Floor Fellows play in residence.” —Isabelle Oke AMUSE VP Floor Fellows