On June 1st, 2016 McGill unions AMURE, AMUSE, and MUNACA partnered with the workers of the Vieux-Port of Montreal, the Immigrant Workers Centre, and the Temporary Agency Workers’ Association to protest the granting of an honorary degree to Larry Rossy, the billionaire CEO of Dollarama, at the Management Convocation. Here is why.
Last week, McGill University gave an honorary doctorate to a man that has made billions— 2.6 billion last year to be exact—from a business model that relies on low employee wages to make an exuberant amount of profits. The same low wages that force us all to shop nowhere but his store. The doctorate was given to the one and only Larry Rossy, the founder and CEO Dollarama Inc. McGill University said it was giving him this prestigious award for his ingenuity and philanthropy as a role model for future business leaders. His ingenuity was to excel in exploiting a global model in which profits are made not through ingenuity or value added production, but to squeeze his workers in every way possible. I myself was one of them.
The company has, at every point in its process, made money through punishing its workers and keeping them so poor there is nowhere else to shop but it's own stores. This is not just the case for Dollarama: this is becoming the world of the Wal-Mart working class, where we all now suffer low wages and job insecurity.
Dollarama, for example, hires its entire staff through temp-agencies, but the work is not at all temporary. In fact, it is highly repetitive day after day, year after year. The only thing that changes is that people’s quotas keep increasing. People are so scared to lose their near minimum wage job of $10.80 cents that they remain in spite of the terrible conditions. One person I worked with, who was older and had diabetes, was so afraid to lose his job that he would pee in a bottle instead of going to the bathroom because he was afraid he would not make his quota. Even so, it would take him 10 minutes to go to the bathroom, and he was fired. This was no loss to the company because they bring in thousands of temps on a daily basis.
As an outreach coordinator with AMUSE, the casual workers’ union, I’ve seen that McGill University’s strategies are in step with Dollarama. McGill University as one of the largest and most well-funded public institutions in Quebec has gone out of its way to undermine decent work through creating a precarious workforce—while they are not “temps” McGill has made hundreds of permanent positions “casual”. People who are casual here at McGill are treated very differently than their permanent counterparts, for example they are very often paid near minimum wage, even less than those who work at Dollarama. McGill, like Dollarama, has profited immensely by creating a permanent casual workforce to make sure that workers are divided and in fear for their jobs. I see it everyday, in all parts of campus, people working side by side in identical jobs: one with a decent wage above $15 and another at minimum wage. Innovation in exploitation and economic entrapment, that is the ingenuity of Larry Rossy, and that is why McGill chose to honour him.
This blog is an initiative of the 15 and Fair McGill Coalition. Curated by MM and MB. This post written by guest-blogger Mostafa Henaway. This piece has been edited for clarity.