AMUSE files in­juc­tion in sup­port of Floor Fel­lows

Mo­tion sub­mit­ted on be­half of Floor Fel­lows

The McGill Daily - - Contents - Ellen Cools

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

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