‘[W]e do not have jobs to formally offer as of now’: Queen’s reopening plan doesn’t account for AMS service staff

AMS rescinds employment offers following struggles to gain University approval to reopen services, lays off TAPS management

The AMS needs to secure approval for reopening from the University.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

When the AMS interviewed service staff in the winter term for the 2020-21 year, the Society was never certain it would be able to offer work during the pandemic.

Instead, the Society extended conditional offers to successful applicants that were contingent on its ability to provide work in September, which applicants were told in an email hinged on “COVID-19 developments, demand for the service and its operational ability.”

The AMS rescinded some of these conditional offers of employment in an Aug. 18 email, citing “the lack of business activity” and other “implications of COVID-19” at some services.

“I felt betrayed, to be totally honest,” Adam Ben David, ArtSci ’23, told The Journal. “Frankly, I have enough in my savings to pay rent, but I don’t know if I have enough for all my other expenses. We’ll have to see.”

David, who’d received a conditional offer to work as a bartender at TAPS, started applying to other local restaurants after he found out the AMS had revoked his job.

He said the AMS is supposed to be “for the students,” which makes it feel counterintuitive that “they would strip [students] of jobs or not find a way to have [them] back to work this fall.”

According to AMS Vice-President (Operations) Alexandra Samoyloff, the Tricolour Outlet, the Student Life Centre, Studio Q, TAPS, Common Ground, and the Print and Copy Centre (P&CC) had to hire fewer service staff than usual because of the pandemic’s effects on their operations. 

Queen’s Student Constables were able to hire almost all students given a conditional offer, while Walkhome and the Peer Support Centre (PSC) were able to retain all service staff.

“Those who had been notified that there would be a potential for employment in the spring were just notified that we are unable to open our services at this time,” Samoyloff wrote in a statement to The Journal

“[W]e do not have jobs to formally offer as of now.”

In the case that circumstances on campus improve and more services are approved for reopening, the AMS intends to first extend offers of employment to those who had received conditional offers in the winter before completing general hiring across the University.

“The current pandemic is the only reason we are not able to offer the amount of employment that we currently do at the AMS,” Samoyloff wrote.

Though the AMS has faced similar challenges to other businesses operating within new guidelines, Samoyloff added that the standards set for the AMS are “stricter” than those set by the Government of Ontario because the Society is also required to secure approval for reopening from the Campus Operations Group (COG).

COG is a team of University representatives tasked with overseeing the phased return to campus operations during the pandemic. 

When The Journal asked the University how it had factored student employment at AMS services into its reopening plan, the University didn’t acknowledge the specific context of the question or its role in the Society’s ability to reopen services.

“Not all services are able to fully operate in the current public health environment, although many university and student-led programs and services, depending on what they are, can and will continue to run remotely,” the University wrote in a statement to The Journal.

Samoyloff called the situation “frustrating.”  

"I totally understand the frustration [students] are experiencing; we are frustrated too,” she wrote. 

Samoyloff said TAPS is one of the services that require special approval from COG because the service operates from the JDUC, which is a University building. 

“We unfortunately had to lay off one individual, the Bar Manager of TAPS, due to the unavailability to open the TAPS bar at full capacity and reduced need for a bar assistant manager position,” Samoyloff wrote.

Unlike service staff, TAPS supervisors had received official offers of employment and managers had been hired. 

The AMS later announced on Sept. 1 that TAPS won’t be reopening during the 2020-21 school year due to “public health regulations and University restrictions” which are keeping the JDUC closed to the public. 

Samoyloff said all TAPS employees accepted termination pay in lieu of notice, which exceeds the minimum legal requirements under the Ontario Employment Standards Act and accounts for the exceptional circumstances of the layoffs.  

“The University has their own rules and capacity that is not consistent with the guidelines set out by the Government of Ontario,” Samoyloff said. “The AMS and TAPS must comply with the regulations set by the University and [COG] in order to use the space.”

The JDUC is being held by the University as an isolation residence in the case of a COVID-19 outbreak, but the University didn’t acknowledge the connection between the JDUC’s closure and the ability for the AMS to reopen services when The Journalinquired.

“Although we continue to advocate to COG about our ability to safely open services, as of now, we are facing a few challenges and setbacks with re-opening a few AMS services,” Samoyloff wrote. “Those that are opening are significantly transformed and remain a fraction of what they were but a year ago.”

The final operating budgets for each service were approved by the AMS Board of Directors at the end of July, establishing the Society’s financial position for the year and how many staff it could afford to hire.

“We informed staff in early August as soon as we knew how many people we could hire,” Samoyloff said. 

“The AMS strives to provide accessible employment for students and is saddened that we are not able to do so in the capacity we typically do this year,” Samoyloff wrote. 

“The pandemic definitely poses threats to the student experience in different ways, and our team is working very hard to ensure viability of as many experiences as we can.”

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