Controversy mounts at the Fine Arts department’s decision to stop hiring students for clean up work after it was made aware that they were paid minimum wage, contrary to the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Dawson College
by Joseph Ste.Marie
partment discontinued hiring students to help out the technicians in clean up and other work at the studio classrooms in the 1G, 2G and 3B areas, providing numerous reasons for the decision.
Brian Rahilly, technician of the woodshop area, was made aware months ago that two students working for the Fine Arts department was being paid at the provincial minimum wage instead of the higher minimum union rate that is required in the collective bargaining agreement with the college and the union, the Dawson Support Staff Union (DSSU).
“In the last 2-3 years, the department has been using some students and paying them at a lower scale,” said Rahilly. “I intervened and those students were paid back.”
Rahilly went on to say that the department afterwards decided they would no longer hire students. Rahilly said that some students found work in other departments but others have not.
Lorraine Simms, chairperson of the Fine Arts program said the decision was made because of budget issues.
“In the past, we’ve hired student to do just general clean up work,” said Simms. “We don’t do that right now because our budget is not big enough to pay the wages.”
Simms also said she has to assess the priorities of the program, like buying materials and hardware. She went on to say that they stopped hiring mid-term.
Some say that student hiring ceased after the underpaid students were reimbursed.
“I don’t know whether that is entirely correct,” she said. “That sounds like someone’s putting rumors out there.”
Simms said that she would love to hire the students if she can, but it’s not part of her mandate to hire students for jobs. Simms also mentioned that they’ve always hired students for the Warren G. Flowers gallery to serve wine at vernissages.
However, Rahilly wrote to DSU, claiming that Simms came to him and accused him and the DSSU in January of forcing her to halt the hiring of students. Rahilly sent the e-mail to the DSU after he and another technician, John Glendinning, received word from the Assistant Dean of Creative and Applied Arts, Wolfgang Krotter that students can no longer be hired and gave a list of the specific jobs that the students can no longer do. Those jobs include tasks such as assisting the technicians with sweeping the floors, checking to see if easels need to be repaired, folding tables and putting them against the wall and putting left out props in the prop rooms.
Krotter said that he did not have any knowledge of the dossier. However, he did mention that the official reason for ceasing to hire students was because there was a second technician hired a year and a half ago, John Glendinning, who does the same work that the students were hired to do. Creative & Applied Arts Dean Andrea Cole said that in the past students were hired but now that there is a new technician, they no longer need the students.
Students and Glendinning refused to comment.
“That is the reason. We have a second Fine Arts technician and always when you hire somebody new, it takes a little while to adjust and readjust to the work job description and the timing, the times to do, what to do and how much and on Saturday morning he has times to do.” said Krotter. “There’s little traffic in the studios and that’s what he does that was previously done by the students.”
The issue was brought up by the DSU to Cole in a Senate meeting a few months ago, and she explained that the jobs were terminated for budgetary reasons and were transferred to other departments. Cole didn’t get into specific details on those students that were transferred.
“Since that time, the DSU and the DSSU have not been in communication but we are ready at any time to help defend equitable student jobs on campus,” Executive Director of the DSU Mathieu Murphy-Perron said.
Cole said that it’s up to the department to decide if they need student help for any reason and if they need more funds, they can come to see her or make a case to the Academic Dean. Regarding the students that were underpaid, she said that the students being labeled under the wrong classification and criteria caused the error in pay and that they could be hired which is mentioned under the collective agreement with the support staff.
“Nobody lost work because of budgetary concerns, our only concerns was making sure that students were hired under the right classification, paid the right wage and we were balancing off workload about the same time.”