The Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE) members voted to approve a merger with McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) in their General Meeting (GM) on Feb. 2. The approval confirms that the merger will be going forward, as MUNACA members approved the same proposal at their December GM.
President of AMUSE Amber Gross and President of MUNACA Kevin Whittaker presented the merger proposal to members of the GM, outlining the details.
“We put out the first formal proposal in June, did info sessions to get feedback from members, and then in November we presented the final plan,” Gross explained. “This motion […] recommends how to move forward, which is to [prepare] bylaws and [a] new budget, and present to a general assembly with both our memberships.”
MUNACA currently represents around 1,400 non-academic support staff who are generally permanent workers, while AMUSE comprises of around 1,300 to 1,400 non-academic support staff who work on a short-term basis. This consists mainly of students, and many AMUSE and MUNACA members work at similar jobs.
According to Gross and Whittaker, the two unions would merge administratively, but retain their separate collective agreements and bargaining. The merger committee also explained that one of the main reasons for the merger was to prevent the further ‘casualization’ of positions at McGill, which would allocate more positions originally filled by permanent employees towards casual employees.
“That means jobs on campus are becoming more precarious, lower-paid, and provide far fewer benefits overall,” the final report of the merger committee reads. “Both groups need to be constantly aware of job abolitions and replacements, and respond together [….] An administrative merger like this means that […] we can coordinate and work together as we each bargain separately, supporting our respective members with increased numbers. ”
Arne Nelson, U1 Arts student and AMUSE member, voiced his concerns regarding the merger at the GM.
“My concern is […] AMUSE members are casual employees, but most of them are also students,” Nelson said. “I’m not seeing the benefits as they’re being put forth [….] My question is, does it truly make sense for us to merge necessarily […and] should we focus on establishing an institutional framework?”
In response, Gross addressed the concerns that AMUSE’s voice might be swallowed up by MUNACA in the merger.
“It’s a big concern of mine, we worked to [increase] the representation of our members […] MUNACA should be getting way more representation than what’s presented in the proposal but we worked to get [AMUSE representation] to a higher level,” she said. “I think it will also help make our union stronger, because MUNACA has a lot of experience that AMUSE doesn’t necessarily [have]. A lot of our executives are here only for two, three years.”
Gross continued to say the merger was supported by the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), a trade union that is currently the parent union of both AMUSE and MUNACA.
“[The PSAC] recommendation is [for us] to merge as well, as it makes sense,” Gross explained. “Their support will be doubled. We do such similar work in the same workplaces, yet they’re supporting two separate unions doing it, so it gets broad and things get divided. [The merger] will help them provide better support to both of our [members].”
Looking forward, Gross says the two unions will work together to finish drafting the bylaws, which will be presented to a joint assembly of the constituents of both unions later in the year.