McGill’s protocols for responding to the COVID-19 outbreak are constantly assessed and all workers should check this website for the latest information.

 

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, stay at home and isolate yourself from others, if possible. 

  • Every day before coming to campus, all students and employees must answer three questions about symptoms through the appropriate Minerva form. Do not come to campus if you answered “yes” to any of the questions. 

  • Call Montreal’s coronavirus hotline at 514-644-4545, or 1-877-644-4545 if you are elsewhere in Quebec.

  • Call Santé Québec at 514-644-4545 for information on next steps.

 

The information on this page is valid as of Friday, September 18, 2020. Please note that the situation may have changed since then. We invite you to consult us directly if you have any additional questions.

Letters of Agreement

A grievance is a formal resolution to an issue in the workplace arising from a difference in the interpretation of a Collective Agreement. A grievance filed through AGSEM is not punitive: It is not an attack on your professor, your department, or your supervisor. A grievance usually follows from an attempt to informally resolve an issue. In many cases, a grievance is the only way to compel McGill to recognize a worker’s rights.

 

Under the present circumstances, AGSEM and McGill have agreed on the following temporary changes to the TA and Invigilator Collective Agreements:

 

Hiring Period for Winter 2021

Taking into account the delays with hiring due to McGill's transfer to the Workday Human Resources system from Minerva and to allow for departments to prepare for a mostly remote Winter 2021 semester, AGSEM has reached an agreement with McGill to help facilitate TA hiring for Winter 2021. This will give departments 15 more days to post their TA positions, but reduces the application and hiring periods by a few days. The application period will be from November 2–20. TAs should receive their notifications of appointment by December 15. Any discrepancies with this agreement should be brought to the union's attention. The full text of the agreement is available here.

Early Appointments for TAs

AGSEM has signed a Letter of Agreement with McGill authorising departments to start some Fall 2020 TA appointments over the summer. This is to meet the needs expressed by some departments to have TA support for preparing online teaching materials and course development prior to the beginning of the semester, while maintaining continuity by having the same TA. In order to start a TA’s appointment early, the department must follow rules that the union agreed upon. For more information and the full text of the agreement, click here.

 

Maintaining Invigilator Priority and Probation

AGSEM and McGill HR have reached an agreement to preserve priority and the semesters towards probation status during the interruption of invigilation due to the pandemic. For more information and the full text of the agreement, click here.

 

Hiring Deadlines for Fall 2020 Extended

AGSEM and McGill have decided to add 30 days to the posting deadlines in article 12.01.01 of the TA Collective Agreement. This means that job postings for Fall 2020 will be advertised by May 30, and, as usual, prospective TAs will have 30 days to apply for a job from the time it is posted. 

 

Summer 2020 job postings will not be affected by this delay since these positions should have been posted by March 1, 2020, and will be open for 30 days. Within 30 days of the application deadline, TAs should receive an offer of employment (per article 13.03.03). If you have any issues accessing job postings, or are experiencing significant delays with a hiring decision, please contact grievance.1@agsem-aeedem.ca

 

International Student Employee FAQ

Quick Info:

  • You must have an active Study Permit and Canadian Social Insurance Number to be an employee at McGill, even if working from outside of Canada
     

  • If you cannot get your immigration documents to be able to legally work, but a TA position is part of your funding package, McGill Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) has committed to making up the difference with funding.

 

Can International Students Work Remotely?

 

Yes. Provided you have an active Study Permit and Canadian Social Insurance Number (SIN). You need a SIN to be able to work, whether in-person or remotely, and you get it after you enter Canada.

 

If you are an incoming international student, this means that you will have to cross a Canadian port of entry. If you intend to travel to Canada, make sure to check any travel restrictions and understand that there is a risk you may not be able to cross the border.

 

Can I Work With an Expired Visa?

 

No. You must start the renewal process for your Study Permit as soon as possible.

 

If you are currently in Canada: You will have “implied status” while you are in the process of renewal. This means you are permitted to work.

 

If you are outside of Canada: you must complete this process at a port of entry before your Study Permit will be renewed. You will not have “implied status” during the renewal process and you are not permitted to work.

 

What if my TA offer was withdrawn by my department?

 

If you were offered a TA position and signed the contract and intended on coming to Canada, and the department should not withdraw your offer based on your presumed immigration status.

 

The department cannot preemptively withdraw this employment offer because it is unclear whether or not you will have your documents. McGill’s office of Labour Relations has confirmed that it is too early for duly signed TA offers to be withdrawn.

 

With around 40% of the graduate student body being international students, McGill extends offers of employment to people whose immigration status is not yet certain all the time. Additionally, the TA collective agreement contains mechanisms for filling vacant positions quickly. These mechanisms are used often—when a graduate student’s schedule changes, when they get sick, when they decide to do fieldwork instead. It may be inconvenient to fill a vacant TA position, but it should not be disruptive to the course to do so.

 

What if my TA Offer was withdrawn unfairly?

 

You have rights under the TA collective agreement. Normally, when an offer of employment is withdrawn, you are entitled to an indemnity equal to 2/5 of the total TA compensation you were originally offered. Contact the union: grievance.1@agsem-aeedem.ca

 

What if I cannot work as a TA, but a TA position was part of my funding package?

 

If your offer of admission included TA wages in your funding package in any way, the department should offer you a stipend equivalent to the TA wages you would have earned. McGill Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) has committed to making up the difference with funding. If you have not received this additional funding, please reach out to us at grievance.1@agsem-aeedem.ca.

 

Can I defer a TA position?

 

No. A TA position is a short-term employment contract. Hiring is done according to the schedule in the collective agreement. Your department might tell you that they will be able to offer you a position in the Winter, but you will still have to apply. Review the deadlines on the AGSEM website or email your department midway through the semester to make sure you don’t miss this opportunity.

 

Can I work and defer payment?

 

No. Without a SIN, you will not be legally able to work, so if you are asked to do this, both you and the department would be breaking the law. As an employer, McGill must pay taxes on your payroll and make sure that you are also taxed. McGill cannot falsify the dates of your employment on payroll, nor can they pay you under the table.

 

Can I just be a Grader or Course Assistant Instead?

 

No. It is not a union rule that you cannot work as a TA this semester. It is the law. This means you cannot legally hold any type of employment in Canada. AGSEM has stepped up to fill a gap in communication from the university, but this is really a matter of McGill’s legal obligations to immigration and revenue authorities. The union simply considers it our duty to make sure that grad students are aware that any under the table arrangement is not a reliable offer.

 

Can I be classified as an Independent Contractor?

 

No. The province makes it clear that when there is an employment relationship when you are subordinate and when your tasks, methods, and schedule are controlled by McGill. Since independent contractors are taxed differently, it could pose a liability for both you and McGill if you are misclassified as an independent contractor. (Source: Revenue Quebec)

 

Teaching Assistants: General FAQ

Quick Info:

  • You have the right to be paid for all course-specific training. (11.02.03 of the TA Collective Agreement)

  • You have the right to refuse work that goes above the hours in your contract. We recommend that you keep close track of your hours and notify your supervisor if you are at risk of exceeding your contract.

  • You have the right to accept any additional paid hours of work before they are offered to someone else (i.e. the right of first refusal).

  • You have the right to be paid for all hours worked. If your professor asks you to work extra hours, make sure that they have the department’s approval. (11.04 of the TA Collective Agreement)

 

How can I make sure my workload is fair? 


Fill out your workload form and track your hours as you work! Overwork is the most common problem that TAs encounter and this problem became worse for many TAs during the shutdown of campus last Spring. Pull up that workload form that you signed at the beginning of the semester and assess the hours that you have left and what has changed. Keep track of any additional tasks that you are assigned and how long it takes you to complete. Are you recording lectures? Creating new assignments to be completed online? Learning a new platform, or figuring out new software? Is grading on a different platform taking longer than it would have otherwise? According to 11.03, you should be paid for all hours in your TA contract, even if the nature of the work has changed. We have prepared a resource guide of your rights and other tools to help you keep track of your hours.

 

My professor is not respecting my rights but I am nervous to confront them about it. Is there anything I can do? 

 

Yes! You can always bring a union representative to a meeting with your professor or with your department—including, in times like these, online or over the phone. Your union can provide support and advice, help mediate a disagreement, or be firm and assert your rights. Contacting us for information or advice does not mean we will file a grievance, and all information shared with us remains confidential. It’s your call. If you need immediate and confidential advice, email president@agsem-aeedem.ca.

 

Am I entitled to any sick leave under the TA collective agreement?

 

Yes. Under the TA Collective Agreement, you have the right to take the following medical leaves: 

  • up to 10 days for healthcare obligations for your child (16.03.03); 

  • up to 3 months to care for your child, spouse, or family member dealing with an illness (16.03.04); and, 

  • medical leave for yourself with no specified duration (16.06). 

 

According to 16.06, if you are ill you should inform your course supervisor as soon as possible and provide them with a proposal for rescheduling the work. If the work cannot be completed as scheduled, the professor must arrange for a substitute, and you will not see a reduction in pay. However, your first priority should be your health and the health of those around you, and you should not wait for alternative arrangements to be made before taking a medical leave. 

 

During times like these, the responsibility for making alternative arrangements for all classes must rest with McGill, not with individual TAs. McGill has a duty to their grad students not to punitively interrupt or terminate pay because a TA takes medical leave.

 

My professor or department is hiring additional teaching support to help with the increase in workload. Is this allowed?

 

Yes, but your rights must be respected. It is possible that a professor will decide that they need additional Teaching Assistants, graders, or other academic support. This is permissible under certain circumstances, but you have rights. If a course already has TAs, additional work must be first offered to these employees before hiring someone else. This work must be compensated at the TA rate; your professor cannot ask you to work for free.

 

If you and any other TAs for your course turn down this additional work, the department is at liberty to hire additional teaching support. Any type of teaching support may be hired for courses that do not have TAs already this semester. 

 

We encourage all teaching support workers that are not currently unionized to join our unionization drive to represent all academic casual workers on campus. Your labour rights have never been more important and collectively we can improve the labour rights of casual academic workers at McGill. Join online here.

 

What happens with TA bargaining?

 

After two years of TA collective negotiations, AGSEM and McGill University have signed a Memorandum of Agreement. This is a document that outlines the changes we would agree to make to the Teaching Assistant Collective Agreement should Teaching Assistants vote to approve at a Unit Assembly. The Memorandum of Agreement reflects what your Bargaining Committee was able to accomplish through the processes of negotiation and conciliation, but it is still up to you to decide whether McGill’s final offer is acceptable.

 

The vote on this agreement will be at the TA Unit Assembly on September 30 at 5:00PM. If you currently work or have worked as a TA within the past 12 months, you are entitled to attend, speak, and vote at this assembly; however, since this is an online assembly, we require you to register in advance. If you wish to attend, we recommend you RSVP as soon as possible on the event page.

 

Teaching Assistants: Remote Delivery FAQ

Quick Info:

  • The Fall 2020 semester will proceed primarily through remote instruction. According to McGill, there will be no in-person exams for courses that begin remotely.

  • All instructors and TAs are responsible for knowing McGill’s policies on remote teaching. Read the full policy.

  • It is your right to have access to the resources to do your job, including a Zoom Pro license, MyCourses Essentials, other software and hardware, and a “desk copy” of course materials.

 

I had to take additional training to learn new software now that all course content, delivery, and assessment is online. Will I receive compensation?

 

All required training should be included on your Workload form, according to the TA Collective Agreement, and the Provincial Act Respecting Labour Standards. All mandatory training hours are considered working hours, and TAs are paid by the hour.

 

In our current Collective Agreement AGSEM has negotiated for two types of training: (1) mandatory paid training at the departmental level for first-time Teaching Assistants that should be indicated on the Workload Form (13.06.01); and (2) the voluntary SKILLSETS TA workshops held in the Fall and Winter semesters, for which first-time TAs may be paid for up to 3 hours in addition to their current TA contract (13.06.02). Other training required by the department is not defined within the agreement between McGill and AGSEM, but may be required by the department, course supervisor, or university policy and must be calculated within the total hours of a TA's contract (eg. “It Takes All of Us” employee training for the  Policy against Sexual Violence should also appear on Workload Forms).



Make sure your hiring unit has approved this before agreeing to work additional hours. In the case of an increased workload TAs also have rights in the Collective Agreement. If you are experiencing an increase in work due to their course being moved online, you can revise your workload form with their supervisor to request additional hours (article 11.04). If a request is not fulfilled by the department, this issue can be brought to the union and we will advocate for you.

 

I do not have access to the software or resources to do my TA work from a distance. What should I do?

 

Talk to your course instructor, or tell us! It is the department and the course instructor’s responsibility to provide their TAs with the resources they need to complete their work. This includes access to Zoom Pro and MyCourses Essentials. Ensure that all expenses are approved before you purchase anything for your job so you can get reimbursed. We are aware that some managers may be unwilling or unable to provide their TAs with access to the resources they need. If you are experiencing issues with this, we recommend that you reach out to us as soon as possible so we can continue to bring these issues to the appropriate decision-makers in the McGill administrative structure. 

 

What are McGill’s policies for video conferencing software?

Students must consent to being recorded if they are attending a lecture or participating in a component of a course that is being recorded. Students will be notified by Zoom if they are being recorded, and can opt out at any time by leaving the session. Recordings will be kept in myCourses for one year, after which they will be deleted. Recordings will not be used to assess an instructor’s performance for the purposes of reappointment, tenure, performance, or merit. Instructors can indicate that they prefer to have cameras on, but you cannot ask that students turn on cameras for privacy reasons. Read the full policy.

 

Teaching Assistants: In-Person Delivery FAQ

​Quick Info

  • McGill has a legal obligation to provide its employees with safe working conditions.
     

  • Always check McGill’s latest COVID-19 announcements
     

  • You are required to consult the mandatory directives & watch training videos for preventing the spread of COVID-19
     

  • Prior to entering any McGill building, employees (including student employees) must complete a daily health check form. Input your Course Supervisor’s email. They will see your answers.
     

  • If you answer “yes” to any of the three questions, you should be in contact with your Supervisor about when it will be safe for you to return to campus. Guide for supervisors.
     

  • AGSEM submitted comments to McGill about their in-person teaching policy.

 

Where will in-person teaching take place?

 

Most in-person teaching this Fall is to take place in so-called “Teaching Hubs”. Teaching Hubs are retrofitted to encourage social distancing, with signage to control spacing and directions, sanitized every two hours, and at least a two hour gap between the next group going in. Teaching Staff are not responsible for cleaning or disinfecting classroom surfaces. “Sanitary agents” will ask you questions and check your McGill ID when entering buildings. Everyone must wear masks or face coverings while moving, but McGill allows students to remove masks when seated with 2 m of distance.

 

What happens if someone experiences symptoms while in a Teaching Hub?

 

Sudden onset of COVID-19 symptoms should lead the person to isolate in a designated room near the “teaching hub”. Anyone experiencing symptoms before they plan to go to campus should stay home.

 

What if I am in a Teaching Hub and someone is not observing social distancing or following McGill’s other COVID-19 protocols?

 

If a student does not follow COVID-19 protocols, the instructor or TA can ask them to leave campus. McGill also asks instructors and TAs to police students by reporting them to a disciplinary officer, the Dean of Students, as well as McGill Security.

 

What is McGill doing to reduce the propagation of the virus?

 

McGill’s main tools for preventing the spread of COVID-19 are daily reporting contact with, or symptoms of, COVID-19 on Minerva and social distancing. If social distancing is respected in an in-person setting but someone in that setting tests positive for the virus, McGill does not consider the other people in that setting as having come “in contact” with the virus.

 

Social distancing must be respected at all times. If 2 metres of distance cannot be maintained between you and the next person, McGill has to provide you with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Contact your Course Supervisor for more information about how this will be supplied to you.


McGill is not conducting any of its own testing. There is no law or rule that requires that the University be notified by the province if a student has tested positive. Students are not compelled to report to the University if they have tested positive, but may choose to submit a form via Minerva to receive accommodations from the professor. Students have no obligation to inform the instructor that they have tested positive. After much criticism, McGill is now publicly reporting the number of reported COVID-19 cases on campus.

 

Do I have the right to refuse a task if I am concerned about COVID-19 exposure?


Yes. In accordance with the Act Respecting Occupational Health and Safety (more here) and the TA Collective agreement (15.02.05), you have the right to refuse work that would expose yourself or others to danger to health, safety, or physical well-being. We have prepared a detailed explainer for how you can refuse work here.

 

Do I have to return to in-person work if I am immunocompromised?


No. If you are being asked to return to in-person work and you are immunocompromised (see McGill’s definition of “high risk”) contact HR Benefits disability.hr@mcgill.ca ASAP to document your need for accommodations. You will have to provide HR with medical documentation to justify to the University that it is unsafe for you to return to in-person work. You may have to discuss with your Course Supervisor how to reallocate the hours in your contract to other work.

 

Do I have to return to in-person work if someone I live with is immunocompromised?

 

Yes. If you are being asked to return to in-person work and you are living with someone who is immunocompromised McGill does not consider this sufficient enough to warrant accommodations. Still, you may be able to come to a different arrangement with your Course Supervisor.

 

If the semester moves online again and I have less work than anticipated in my contract, will I see a reduction in my TA pay?

 

No. Due to the provisions in our TA Collective Agreement (article 11.03), TAs who have less work under the present circumstances will not see a reduction in their compensation, even if they have a reduction in the number of hours worked. This means that if your labs or tutorial sections are cancelled and your professor does not have additional work to give you to make up for this time, nothing should change in your pay schedule because the department has to respect the contract that you originally signed. 

 

HR has sent out directives to departments to this effect and assured the union that everyone's contract and labour rights will be respected. If you hear anything from your professor or your department about cutting your pay, or notice a decrease in your paystubs on Minerva, do let us know as soon as possible and we will work to fix the situation.

 

Invigilator FAQ

Quick Info:

  • Most in-person exams have been cancelled as of March 13, 2020 for the Winter 2020 and Summer 2020 semesters. There will be only a few in-person exams in the Fall 2020 semester.
     

  • There is no binding agreement for a minimum shift or hour allocation in the Invigilator Collective Agreement. In practice, you can be hired in a semester without being scheduled to work a shift.
     

  • Based on the effective Collective Agreement, McGill has decided to compensate only the employees with scheduled shifts as of March 13, 2020.
     

  • Invigilators who want to receive compensation for a cancelled shift are required to submit a timesheet to their supervisor.

 

Will I be compensated if I was scheduled to invigilate a shift that was cancelled?

 

Yes. If you were scheduled to invigilate between Friday, March 13 and Friday, March 27 (inclusive) when exams and in-person assessments were cancelled by McGill, you will be compensated for your shift(s). You are required to fill out and submit an invigilation timesheet and email it to the department that hired you—otherwise you will not be paid. If you were scheduled to work in multiple departments, you will have to submit a different sheet to each department, as you would under normal circumstances. A blank academic casual timesheet is available here.

With the reduction of face-to-face contact, electronic submission and e-signatures should be acceptable, according to McGill HR. If you have any trouble with filling out and submitting your invigilator timesheets online, let us know.


If, in the coming weeks, you do not see your shift(s) reflected in your paystubs in Minerva, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at president@agsem-aeedem.ca.

 

If I work in a department that schedules shifts 24 to 48 hours in advance (like at the Office for Students with Disabilities or Medicine) but I did not have a scheduled shift, will I be compensated?

 

No. If you were hired to work throughout the semester but you were not scheduled for shifts (even if you had provided your availability), McGill’s current position is that you will not receive compensation. You will also not be laid off or terminated from that position. Rather, McGill is going to let your contract expire at the end of the semester. You can, however, ask your invigilation supervisor for a Record of Employment, and you can use this document to apply for any of the government programs that are available for people who have lost work (a helpful document to navigate these programs is available here).

 

McGill could have compensated all of its invigilators until the end of the semester, even those who did not yet have their schedule. Instead, McGill is following the minimum guidelines set out by the Quebec government for how to compensate its employees. McGill had already budgeted invigilator wages for Winter 2020 and Summer 2020, and it seems COVID-19 has provided them the opportunity to cut this cost at the expense of our invigilators’ livelihoods.

 

If I was hired to work final exams and I was given my shift schedule, will I receive compensation?


Yes. If you were scheduled for any exams after March 27, including finals, you should also fill out timesheets for those shifts to receive compensation, as described above. If, in the coming weeks, you do not see your shift(s) reflected in your paystubs in Minerva, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

 

If I was hired to work final exams and I was *not* given my shift schedule, will I receive compensation?

 

No. If you have been appointed to an Invigilator position for the winter final exam period and your final work schedule was not confirmed to you prior to March 13, 2020, you will not receive compensation. You will also not be laid off or terminated from that position. Rather, McGill is going to let your contract expire at the end of the semester. You can, however, ask your invigilation supervisor for a Record of Employment, and you can use this document to apply for any of the government programs that are available for people who have lost work (a helpful document to navigate these programs is available here).

 

McGill could have compensated all of its invigilators until the end of the semester, even those who did not yet have their schedule. Instead, McGill is following the minimum guidelines set out by the Quebec government for how to compensate its employees. McGill had already budgeted invigilator wages for Winter 2020 and Summer 2020, and it seems COVID-19 has provided them the opportunity to cut this cost at the expense of our invigilators’ livelihoods.

 

What happens with Invigilator bargaining?

 

As you may know, the Invigilator Bargaining Committee is preparing a bargaining proposal for ratification during a Unit 2 Assembly this Fall. After ratification, we will head into negotiations with McGill for a new Collective Agreement. 

 

Our Invigilator Unit Assembly will be held on October 14 at 5:00PM. If you currently work or have worked as an Invigilator within the past 18 months (or, between May 1st, 2019 and April 30, 2020 due to the COVID-19 shutdown), you are entitled to attend, speak, and vote at this assembly; however, since this is an online assembly, we require you to register in advance. If you wish to attend, we recommend you RSVP as soon as possible on the event page.

 

Unit 3: Academic Casuals & Academic Support

 

We are aware of the challenges facing academic support workers on campus. We are also aware of the increasing quantity of short-term academic support jobs being introduced right now to supplement the work demanded by the online format of classes. 

 

We remain deeply invested in improving the protections available for academic support, and are here for you, regardless of department, faculty, or job title. 

 

We encourage any and all graders, tutors, course assistants, student assistants, note-takers, and related support workers to contact us directly in cases of overwork and underpay, as well as absences of labour rights, general information, and safety. This can be done by email: udrive@agsem-aeedem.ca.

 

For more information about our capacity to help you, and our continuing efforts to represent academic support, check out www.agsem.ca/join.

Helpful Links

We realize that this is a stressful time as we deal with many uncertainties, but there are resources available to you and many people who want to help.

 

General Workers’ Rights Info:

 

Medical Info:

Mutual Aid:

 

Benefit Information in Canada:

 

Teaching for Accessibility:

 

Latest COVID-19 News from AGSEM

 
Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill

The Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM) was accredited in 1993 to represent Teaching Assistants at McGill, making us the oldest TA Union in the province. Invigilators joined AGSEM in 2010 and Course Lecturers in 2011. Course lecturers have since separated into the McGill Course Lecturers and Instructors Union (MCLIU).

Email: mail@agsem-aeedem.ca

Phone: 514-398-2582

3641 rue University, suite 207
Montréal, Québec H3A 2B3

*Please note that our office is unfortunately not wheelchair accessible

© 2019 by The Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill.