Strikers Picket Edward Snowden Lecture At McGill

AMUSE Calls for Fairer Work Conditions for Temporary Workers

  • Wednesday’s rally marked the fifth and final day of scheduled strikes organised by AMUSE in its push towards a new and improved collective agreement for McGill’s temporary workers. Photo Joshua De Costa

More than 50 strikers rallied outside McGill’s James Administration Building on Wednesday night as NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was set to speak.

The picketers were pushing for better work conditions for temporary workers at the university while hundreds were lined up for Snowden’s talk.

“This is McGill University; the time for change was yesterday,” said Claire Michela, president of the Association of McGill University Support Employees, a group that represents more than 1,500 casual, temporary and replacement workers on campus.

“Our non-monetary requests—for defined work-study job postings and ID cards for non-student staff—were heard but tabled,” Michela said. “Workers need better conditions now.”

Wednesday’s rally marked the fifth and final day of scheduled strikes organised by AMUSE in its push towards a new and improved collective agreement for McGill’s temporary workers.

“We’re looking to bring our wages up to par with permanent employees—who do the exact same job—except we get paid half,” said Maxim Baru, communications and outreach officer for AMUSE.

The association had negotiated with the university in its capacity as employer for the past year and a half without reaching an agreement, according to Baru, who had been contracted to work at the Snowden lecture that evening, but chose to strike instead.

“We’re demonstrating that this is where AMUSE work is done,” said Baru. “And it’s done in a manner that we don’t consider to be entirely respectful for us in terms of wages and in terms of our ability to have reliable work.”

More than 1,000 people formed a line to see Snowdon that snaked from McGill’s Leacock lecture hall and along the front of the James Administration Building, where Baru and AMUSE supporters congregated.

Thomas Chalmers, president of the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association, a labour union that represents around 1,700 permanent non-academic staff, came to support the temporary workers.

“Basically they’ve been treated like crap,” said Chalmers. “They want ID cards so they don’t have to ask somebody to let them into the bathroom, they want defined jobs, and they want to be treated with respect for what they do.”

Thirteen years ago Chalmers worked as a temporary replacement in a role at the university where he earned at least $15 per hour.

“They’re not making that now, which is ridiculous,” he said. “The university should be able to pay their casual employees a decent wage.”

Even though Chalmers is currently a permanent employee at McGill, his reason to support the temporary workers’ strike was simple.

“They’re our colleagues, and when people are being treated unfairly, everybody should care,” he said. “It’s wrong and it needs to change. It’s as simple as that.”

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