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 are symptomatic or if you have been in contact with anyone who is symptomatic you are required to call 1-877-644-4545 and follow instructions for self-isolation at home.


The information on this page is valid as of Wednesday, April 1, 2020. Please note that the situation may have changed since then. We invite you to consult us directly if you have any additional questions.

Suspension of Delays for Grievances

 

A grievance is a formal resolution to an issue in the workplace. 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 decided to suspend the normal time limits for submitting and responding to grievances, arbitration, and disciplinary meetings until campus is reopened, or until both parties decide otherwise. This will ensure that we are able to meet our members’ needs, but should not delay a resolution to an immediate issue. Should you become aware of a situation that violates your rights, please notify us as soon as possible at president@agsem-aeedem.ca.


 

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

Teaching Assistant FAQ

We want to hear from you about changes to your contract or working conditions since the mid-March closure. Fill out our short survey here.

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)

  • McGill will not prioritize your labour rights, be prepared!

 

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

 

Yes. You have this right under Article 15 of our Collective Agreement and under Section 12 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. In order to exercise this right, you must notify your Course Supervisor, your union representative, or CNESST of the danger presented by completing the task.

 

My tasks are changing and we didn’t plan for this. How can I make sure my workload is fair? 

 

Check your workload form and check your hours! 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. Now is the time to 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 want to know how your working conditions have changed, provide us feedback here. If your anticipated workload for this semester was never fair before the COVID-19 pandemic, we also want to know.

 

Now that the semester has moved online, 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.

 

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 for the end of the semester. 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 they do, let us know.

 

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.

 

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

 

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. Let us know how your working conditions have changed here.

 

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. Contact president@agsem-aeedem.ca with any concerns.

 

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. 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 at president@agsem-aeedem.ca as soon as possible so we can continue to bring these issues to the appropriate decision-makers in the McGill administrative structure. 

 

As one example, many TAs are being asked by their supervisors to use Zoom Pro to deliver course content. For their purposes, Teaching and Learning Services and McGill IT do not consider TAs teaching staff, despite the nature of our work indicating otherwise.

 

McGill suggests the following work-arounds for TAs who cannot get Zoom Pro access through MyCourses or their supervisor:

  • Create multiple 40-minute sessions.

  • An instructor can create the sessions, make the TA a co-host in the meeting setup and they should be able to have all the same rights (note that the instructor would not be able to set 2 meetings at a time).

  • All users can access IT support through x3338 or itsupport@mcgill.ca.


If these are unsatisfactory solutions for you to carry out your TA responsibilities at a distance, we encourage you to reach out to chris.buddle@mcgill.ca directly and copy president@agsem-aeedem.ca.

 

What happens with TA bargaining?

 

In short, things are on hold. All bargaining proposals and collective agreements must be ratified by the respective Unit Assembly, which we are unable to hold under the present circumstances. We cannot hold an online vote due to AGSEM’s constitution and Québec labour law, and it is neither safe nor legal to hold a large in-person gathering right now. (Check out our previous TA Bargaining update for more information.) 


On March 10, TA Bargaining Committee reached a verbal tentative agreement with McGill that must now head to a vote by the membership. This agreement is not binding and until the TA Assembly votes to ratify the proposed contract, the provisions of the collective agreement which expired in 2018 remain in place, although wage increases will be retroactive when the new CA is ratified. You will be notified in advance of any rescheduled general assembly or vote.

 

Invigilator FAQ

We want to hear from you about the effects of the cancellation of in-person exams on your living conditions, academic progress, and financial planning. Fill out our short survey here.

Quick Info:

  • All in-person exams have been cancelled as of March 13, 2020 for the Winter 2020 and Summer 2020 semesters.
     

  • 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. Please address any and all dissatisfaction with McGill’s financial decisions to yves.beauchamp@mcgill.ca and copy president@agsem-aeedem.ca.

 

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. Please address any and all dissatisfaction with McGill’s financial decisions to yves.beauchamp@mcgill.ca and copy president@agsem-aeedem.ca.

 

What happens with Invigilator bargaining?

 

The Invigilator Pre-Bargaining Committee has been working hard at their bargaining proposal and must present their proposal to the Invigilator Assembly to receive a mandate before they can begin negotiations with McGill. The Invigilator Collective Agreement expires on April 30 but all provisions and protections will remain in place until a new Collective Agreement is signed. The Invigilator Bargaining Committee will notify McGill of the date they intend to begin negotiations, which will only happen after an Invigilator Assembly is convened. You will be notified in advance of any rescheduled assembly or vote. 

 

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.


If you are interested in supporting our work for academic casuals, you can always sign and share our open letter, at www.bit.ly/unionizemcgill.

AGSEM FAQ

Why has the union suspended all assemblies?

 

For a few reasons, the current public health crisis presented by COVID-19 and the restrictions put in place by the government and the university make any union assembly impossible right now.

 

AGSEM's constitution does not explicitly allow members to participate remotely and if we were to make an exception, there would be technical challenges as well as logistical challenges like verifying union membership. More importantly, the constitution—and, in some cases, provincial law—requires that decisions such as elections, constitutional amendments, and ratification votes take place via a secret ballot, according to the procedures laid out by our affiliate CSN. We cannot conduct these votes online, and CSN has provided a guiding note that unions should wait to hold general assemblies until this crisis has passed.

 

In addition, there is the issue of organizing large gatherings of over 50 people. The membership of Unit 1 (TAs) and Unit 2 (Invigilators) is over 2,000—and a General Assembly extends the right of participation to all who have joined our unionization drive for teaching support staff. The university is currently closed for two weeks, and will likely restrict in-person gatherings afterward, making it difficult to secure a location. The province is currently prohibiting gatherings, making it impossible to hold an assembly off-site.

 

Is this allowed?

 

Not constitutionally—and we need a General Assembly to get things done. AGSEM's constitution requires a General Assembly to be held in the Winter term. The union's budget and mandates must be authorised by the General Assembly. The term of office for the Executive Committee, excluding the Bargaining Chairs, ends April 30, and only the General Assembly may elect new Executive Officers. No constitutional changes can be made to provide alternative means because constitutional amendments may only be made by (you guessed it) the General Assembly. In addition, CSN’s legal team has provided guidance (relying on Québec labour law and CSN procedures) that unions should wait to hold general assemblies until this crisis has passed.

 

Additionally, all bargaining proposals and collective agreements must be ratified by the respective Unit Assembly. On March 10, TA Bargaining Committee reached a verbal tentative agreement with McGill that must now head to a vote by the membership. This agreement is not binding and until the TA Assembly votes to ratify the proposed contract, the provisions of the collective agreement which expired in 2018 remain in place, although wage increases will be retroactive when the new CA is ratified.

 

The Invigilator Bargaining Committee has been working hard at their bargaining proposal and must present their proposal to the Invigilator Assembly to receive a mandate before they can begin negotiations with McGill. The Invigilator collective agreement expires on April 30 but all provisions and protections will remain in place until a new CA is signed. The Invigilator Bargaining Committee will notify McGill of the date they intend to begin negotiations, which will only happen after an Invigilator Assembly is convened.

So what happens to AGSEM committees, including the Executive Committee after April 30?

 

We keep working together. In exceptional circumstances, the AGSEM Executive Committee has the power by virtue of the Loi sur les syndicats  professionnels (Professional Syndicates Act) and the Loi sur les compagnies (Companies Act), to continue to make decisions to ensure the continuity of the union without holding a General Assembly. The CSN has recommended that all unions postpone any vote that is not vital to the survival of the union after this public health emergency, when all restrictions on gatherings are lifted.

 

AGSEM is bound to follow all public health directives. We also have an ethical obligation to ensure that our meetings are safe and accessible, meaning that if there is still a viable health risk, especially to those members who are immunocompromised, we must reconsider public meetings. Furthermore, we have an ethical commitment to union democracy. The General Assembly is the highest authority in the union and we must ensure that every member has the opportunity to participate in the GA. If a large portion of our members are not on campus due to isolation, travel restrictions, or the end of Winter term activities, we must reconsider holding an assembly.

 

The nomination period for all committee positions is open and will remain open until two days before the GA, whenever it eventually takes place. The President will put out a new call for nominations two weeks prior to the rescheduled GA, and will verify nominations already received. The current Executive Committee and Bargaining Committee will remain in office as an extraordinary measure until elections take place or until they resign. In the event of a resignation, the EC/BC will reach out to those who have nominated themselves to stand for election and may appoint interim officers as needed. The Bargaining Committees are also committed to sharing the workload of the EC while they remain in office. The entire EC will continue to serve on an interim basis and abide by a limited mandate of maintaining union operations and coalitions and providing support to members.

 

During this interim period, the EC/BCs will remain in close collaboration with our affiliates at CSN/FNEEQ and follow their guidance on our legal and constitutional obligations. We welcome feedback and participation from all union members.

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

515 avenue des Pins, 2ème étage
Montréal, Québec H2W 1S4

*Please note that our office is unfortunately not wheelchair accessible

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