McGill, Montreal, News

Students petition McGill Board of Governors to support Dollarama workers

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), the Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE), and the McGill Corporate Accountability Project have created a petition calling on the McGill Board of Governors (BoG) to support Dollarama warehouse workers. Dollarama has been widely criticized for hiring their employees through temporary placement agencies—which prevent stable work status and workplace accountability—and for harbouring unsafe working conditions

The petition urges the McGill Board of Governors (BoG) to demand that the Dollarama corporation produce a report on the company’s possible human rights violations resulting from its use of third-party staffing agencies. The petition also calls on the university’s Office of Investments to collaborate with the Immigrant Workers Centre (IWC) and the Association des Travailleurs et Travailleuses d’Agences de Placements (ATTAP) in the adoption of a new Dollarama corporate engagement strategy.

Samuel Helguero, 2L Law and member of McGill Corporate Accountability Project (MCAP), stated that Dollarama refuses to hire all its staff through permanent placement. According to Helguero, the company also subjects its employees to unsafe work conditions—which have only worsened since the onset of the pandemic, with mishandled outbreaks and a lack of safety equipment. 

“The conditions documented, particularly in Dollarama warehouses, have been nothing short of reprehensible,” Helguero said. “There, one finds poor safety training, dangerously crowded workspaces, and relentless pushes for productivity. Temporary placement agencies act to ensure that migrant workers are not permanently working for any one company or warehouse, creating problems with training and work stability.”

As of December 2020, McGill holds a $3.3 million stock share in Dollarama Inc. The university’s investment was highlighted by a presentation from the IWC on the poor working conditions of Dollarama employees during the Jan. 28 SSMU Legislative Council meeting. In accordance, the Council voted to approve a motion supporting student solidarity with Dollarama warehouse workers. 

Tori Coon, BA ‘19 and the internal affairs officer at AMUSE, believes that it is crucial for the university to recognize its connection to the Dollarama corporation, especially considering Dollarama’s apparent lack of accountability regarding employee safety.

“It is vital for campus unions to recognize the way McGill is implicated in workers’ struggles beyond those of their direct employees,” Coon said. “The university’s silence on the treatment of warehouse workers in companies they invest in is a reflection of their disregard for casual staff, many of whom are paid under a living wage and have worked throughout the pandemic without hazard pay.”

Ayo Ogunremi, SSMU Vice-President (VP) External Affairs, spoke to the Tribune about SSMU’s recent advocacy on Dollarama workers’ rights.

“Through the VP External office, SSMU is working with MCAP to bring awareness about Dollarama’s exploitative labour practices to the McGill community and administration,” Ogunremi said. “The campaign will direct its advocacy towards McGill’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility, which reviews the university’s investment portfolio for socially harmful investments, though only at the request of the McGill community.”

Ogunremi was disappointed to discover that SSMU currently invests in the Dollarama franchise, and stated that the Society will take measures to divest from the company.

“I discovered that SSMU is also invested in Dollarama,” Ogunremi said. “It is just 0.38 per cent of our investment portfolio, but the market value of the shares is just over $13,000. This was a bit sickening to discover, but it is going to be included in the Finance Committee’s annual report on our investment portfolio, so the good news is that we are heading towards divestment.”

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