AGSEM has two Bargaining Units, Unit 1 for Teaching Assistants and Unit 2 for Invigilators. Each Bargaining Unit has a Collective Agreement (CA) that is a binding contract negotiated by representatives of AGSEM and representatives of McGill’s Board of Governors.
The Unit 1 or Teaching Assistant Collective Agreement is in effect until July 31, 2023. In March 2022, the Unit 1 Assembly elected a pre-Bargaining Committee to prepare for the next round of negotiations.
How does Bargaining work?
Each Bargaining Unit (that is, Teaching Assistants or Invigilators) has a Collective Agreement (CA) that is a binding contract negotiated by representatives of the union and representatives of McGill’s Board of Governors. The length of the CA is negotiated in this process.
One year before the expiration of the CA, the members of the bargaining unit elect a Bargaining Committee (BC) at their biannual General Assembly. This is also commonly referred to as a Pre-bargaining Committee, since we do not typically engage in negotiations until the CA expires. This BC is responsible for collecting data, conducting outreach, and identifying key areas of the CA to be re-negotiated. The BC will present a bargaining proposal to the General Assembly for their bargaining unit in the term preceding the expiration of the CA. If this proposal is adopted, the BC will prepare the proposal to be presented to McGill’s negotiators one month before the expiration of the CA. The members of the BC serve until the conclusion of the bargaining process, which means until a new CA is signed, but the members of the Bargaining Committee can step down or be removed from office by a member vote at any time and any member of the union can run for election to replace them.
How are bargaining decisions made?
What if I disagree with the actions or issues of the bargaining committee?
The Bargaining Committee will present a proposal to the General Assembly (GA) and members will have a chance to amend any portion of it by proposing an amendment and participating in a vote by simple majority. Throughout the bargaining process, the committee will continue to collect feedback from members. If McGill accepts the union’s terms, the bargaining committee will bring an agreement in principle to the General Assembly for ratification. If McGill does not accept the union’s terms, the bargaining committee will continue to negotiate until they feel that an impasse has been reached. It will then be up to the General Assembly to decide to amend to the bargaining objectives or to continue pursuing them, possibly through a strike. All decisions are subject to the highest authority in the union, which is the popular vote of the members.
If you disagree with any of the means or objectives, you always have the option to present a motion at a GA, become a departmental Delegate and address the Executive at the Delegate Council, join a Committee, move to remove members of the Executive Committee or Bargaining Committee from office, or run for any of these positions yourself. Between General Assemblies and Delegate Council meetings, you always have the option to approach the bargaining committee directly with any concerns you have.
When does a strike vote occur?
The Executive Committee or the Bargaining Committee never makes a unilateral decision to strike. A strike can only occur through a majority vote by members of the bargaining unit at a General Assembly. Any member can bring a motion to strike to the GA, but the Executive Committee may bring this motion itself when the bargaining process has stalled. A strike vote can be brought before a General Assembly when the University is habitually violated terms of the Collective Agreement or when the union is in a bargaining period and the University will not come to an agreement that suits the members. A strike is not automatic if McGill does not agree to the union’s terms. Members will have the opportunity to vote on whether or not to change the union’s demands; whether to accept McGill’s offer; and whether or not to reject McGill’s offer but continue bargaining without a strike.
Do we want to go on strike?
Strikes are risky business. They require strong mobilization among members, active participation in picketing and visibility on campus, and support from other constituencies at the university, like professors and undergraduates. A strike is always a last resort and the Bargaining Committee does not formulate bargaining strategies anticipating a strike. It is the last thing that the union wants. In some cases, the union may present a strike vote or even recommend to members that they vote to strike if there is no perceived way forward in the bargaining process. Rejecting an offer from McGill without a strike or other significant action from the union weakens our bargaining position. But members have the final say when it comes to all details of a strike.
What happens if we go on strike? Do I get paid if we are on strike? Do I have to strike?
If a strike vote passes, members will then decide how long to strike - a day? A week? Indefinitely? All members of bargaining unit that votes to go on strike cannot go to work or perform other duties related to their work, such as grading or corresponding with students. This does not apply to other jobs that members hold on campus, whether unionized or not. The Executive Committee will inform members of their rights regarding strike pay. Our affiliates CSN and FNEEQ contribute to AGSEM’s strike fund. This means that members can continue to collect a wage at the designated pay rate in their Collective Agreement for participating in strike activities like picketing. The Bargaining Committee will then negotiate for back-pay for striking workers when bargaining resumes, although this is not a guaranteed provision.
How does striking affect my other jobs on campus?
You should not use an RA position to complete work that falls under TA duties if AGSEM is on strike.
I am not a teaching assistant but I would like to be. Does bargaining affect me?
Yes! If can affect you in several ways. If you find it difficult to get a TA position because you do not have high priority, then any bargaining relating to changes in the priority pool may make jobs more accessible to you. If you have not applied for a TAship for other reasons but plan to in the future, then bargaining will determine the conditions under which you will work in the coming semesters. AGSEM’s primary duty is to the members of the union, but as an academic workforce, we are invested in the quality of education and experiences for all graduate and undergraduate students. Your opinion still matters and you should not hesitate to share it with us!