On Dec. 6, McGill filed for a judicial review of the Nov. 8 Tribunal administratif du travail (TAT)’s decision to certify the Association of McGill Professors of Law (AMPL) as a union. The appeal came a day before the case-law deadline to file such an objection: Applications for review must be filed within 30 days of receiving a decision.
If McGill wins its suit, the previous decision of the TAT judge will be declared invalid. AMPL and the university administration will be sent back to the TAT for a second round of hearings to decide whether or not to keep AMPL certified.
AMPL President Evan Fox-Decent had previously suggested that McGill might file an appeal. Fox-Decent believes that the appeal will serve as a “bargaining chip” for McGill as negotiations move forward according to schedule. According to Fox-Decent, the possibility of McGill overturning the certification is very slim due to the decisive nature of the 20-page TAT ruling. The union’s view is that the lawsuit is not directed toward AMPL in particular but serves as a warning for other faculties considering unionization.
“As far as we are concerned, [the lawsuit] is a technicality—McGill has next to no chance of success,” Fox-Decent said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “We may be able to get the suit declared to be abusive litigation, which would compel McGill to then pay for our legal costs. We would seek to have them [cover our legal fees] only to prevent them from doing this in the future if other professors decide to organize.”
The prolonged litigation imposes a financial burden on both sides but, according to Fox-Decent, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) and La Fédération québécoise des professeures et professeurs d’université (FQPPU) support AMPL, both financially and ideologically.
“I indicated that we would be there to support them in their legal costs and legal battle at this next stage,” CAUT executive director David Robinson told the Tribune. “We’re hopeful that this will be a pretty quick hearing [….] I think one of the reasons why the labour board was so comprehensive was that it was trying to make its decision appeal-proof. It’s hard to see where [McGill’s] argument is really going to come into play, so it’s just an annoyance more than anything.”
Officially, McGill’s reasons for challenging AMPL’s certification have remained the same as those originally used to oppose the union, with the administration citing “vast consequences” for the university if AMPL is granted union status as a faculty-specific association.
“Given the far-reaching impacts of this decision on McGill’s operations as a whole, the [a]dministration has a duty to see this process through to the end to ensure all impacts have been thoroughly considered and that they are, where relevant, incorporated into the application of the correct legal test,” McGill media relations officer Frederique Mazerolle wrote in an email to the Tribune. “While the [u]niversity continues to seek resolution to its concerns about the TAT decision, McGill is fully committed to negotiating with the new union.”
Fox-Decent speculates that it will take about two years for the challenge to move through the TAT docket and into court. In the meantime, collective agreement negotiations have already begun.
“As abusive and unnecessary and as wasteful of student funds and donations as the lawsuit […] is, the truth of the matter is, McGill probably isn’t going to get in front of a court for two years,” Fox-Decent said.
The second collective agreement negotiation meeting is scheduled for the third week of February.