AGSEM Newsletter - August/September 2021


Previous Newsletter



Follow us on: Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!


September 29, 2021: Invigilator Unit Assembly and AGSEM General Assembly

Invigilator Unit Assembly

The Invigilator Unit Assembly is on September 29 at 5:30pm EST, online.

The next Invigilators' Assembly is on September 29, 2021, at 5:30pm. for the purpose of holding elections for Invigilator Bargaining Committee positions. If you currently work or have worked as an Invigilator at any point since May 1st, 2019 (membership is currently frozen 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 here.

You are also invited to submit any topic of discussion or motion to adopt that you wish, simply by emailing the chair at president@agsem-aeedem.ca, up to 24 hours before the start of the meeting.

Registration is necessary to attend the meeting, and the meeting information and agenda will be sent to those who register in advance. Registration will be open until September 28 at 5:30PM, 24hrs in advance of the meeting. We will follow up with registrants for whom we do not have a signed AGSEM membership form.

Nomination Period Now Open

Invigilator Bargaining Committee strives to address the issues of work and employment environment, improve the benefits and salary of invigilators, through the negotiations of the new collective agreement with McGill. The union efforts are in a transparent, equitable and Employee-wellness oriented process for establishing a progressive workplace. For more information on Bargaining and our priorities please visit our website, and our policies are here.

The positions require good organizational skills and time management.The Chair of the Invigilator Bargaining Committee has a number of additional responsibilities from a regular committee member. The Chair is responsible for organizing and leading committee meetings, preparing agendas for meetings, maintaining documents for negotiations, as well as keeping an active flow of information in reporting to other AGSEM committees and the Delegates' Council, delegating tasks, and tracking the progress of the committee.

Official descriptions of the positions are available here.

There are two types of positions open in the Bargaining Committee, chair (1) and officers (2). Each position is remunerated for 90 hours per semester at the new TA rate ($32.38$/hr). The nomination period is now open until September 27, 2021, 7:00pm EST, two (2) days before the assembly. Nomination forms must be signed by the nominee and five (5) Unit 2 members in good standing. Unit 2 members in good standing have worked as an invigilator at least once since May 1st, 2019, and have signed and submitted an AGSEM membership form. Filled-out nomination forms, including self-nominations, for any of the EC or BC positions must be sent to president@agsem-aeedem.ca. If you have any questions or concerns please also contact the President at the email above. A Unit 2 member in good standing may be nominated for only one of the two positions during the nomination period. Members can also run in absentia provided they submit a nomination form prior to the Assembly. Members can also nominate and run for positions during the meeting from the floor, provided there are one or fewer people running for a given position.

Negotiations

AGSEM and McGill began negotiations for a new Collective Agreement in March 2021. We have reached agreements in principle on Articles 1–4, 6, before breaking for summer. We will begin negotiating again on September 9, 2021, starting with Article 8. The Bargaining Committee regularly provides updates on the AGSEM website, where you can also find our list of bargaining priorities.

Hope to see you there!

AGSEM Special General Assembly

Our General Assembly is on September 29 2021, at 6:30pm. EST, online, after the Unit 2 general assembly using the same zoom link. If you wish to attend, we recommend you RSVP as soon as possible on the event page.

We will be holding a General Assembly for TAs and Invigilators on September 29th at 6:30 PM. The General Assembly has been called with the purpose of holding an election for the TA Grievance Officer position of the AGSEM Executive Committee, elected for a term ending April 30, 2022. We want to thank Jessica Rose, current TA grievance officer for her great contribution to the union over the past years. This GA will happen just after the Invigilators' Assembly so this GA is expected to start at 6:30pm. If you currently work or have worked as a TA in the last 12 months or as an invigilator at any point since May 1, 2019, 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.

You are also invited to submit any topic of discussion or motion to adopt that you wish, simply by emailing the chair at president@agsem-aeedem.ca, up to 24 hours before the start of the meeting.

Registration on the event page is necessary to attend the meeting, and the meeting information and agenda will be sent to those who register in advance. Registration will be open until September 28 at 6:30PM, 24hrs in advance of the meeting. We will follow up with registrants for whom we do not have a signed AGSEM membership form.

Nomination Period Now Open

The AGSEM TA Grievance Officer position is now open. The position is remunerated for 180 hours per semester at the new TA rate ($32.38$/hr). The nomination period is now open until September 27 2021, 6:30pm EST, 2 days before the assembly. Nomination forms must be signed by the nominee and five (5) Unit 1 or 2 members in good standing. Unit 1 or 2 members in good standing work or have worked in the past 12 months and have signed and submitted an AGSEM membership form. Filled-out nomination forms, including self-nominations, for any of the EC or BC positions must be sent to president@agsem-aeedem.ca. Members can also run in absentia provided they submit a Nomination Form prior to the Assembly. Official description of the positions is available below.

Official description of the AGSEM TA Grievance officer position:

The Grievance Officer shall be the officer responsible for ensuring the respect of members’ rights and the enforcement of their Unit’s respective Collective Agreement, by, including but not limited to:

  • actively informing members of their rights under the Collective Agreements and the relevant employment law;

  • assisting members of the Union with complaints or grievances, including internal complaints not leading to the filing of a grievance;

  • shall normally perform the role of the “Union” where mentioned in the Unit 1 and 2 Collective Agreements;

  • shall be responsible for the reception and maintenance of Union membership records and documents received by the Employer or its Hiring Units, including but not limited to membership forms, appointment lists, and dues lists;

  • shall have a seat on the Bargaining Committees of their respective Unit;

  • shall act as the chairperson at Labour Relations Committee meetings for the Unit which they represent and shall normally be accompanied by the President.

Hope to see you all!

Fall 21 In-Person Comfort Levels Survey: Results and Follow-Up Actions

In April 2021, PGSS and AGSEM conducted a survey amongst McGill graduate students to measure their comfort levels and preferences regarding returning to campus for the Fall 2021 semester.

Please follow this link to find the summary of the survey results.

In August 2021, PGSS and AGSEM conducted another survey amongst McGill graduate students to measure their comfort levels and preferences regarding returning to campus for the Fall 2021 semester.

Please follow this link to find the highlights of the updated August survey.

Please feel free to use the feedback form on the AGSEM website for any comments.

AGSEM’s letter to McGill upper administration - Concrete results for you!

In response to the concerns expressed by graduate students in the April survey, in June 2021 AGSEM sent a letter to McGill upper administration requesting that the university take into consideration the needs and preferences of graduate students, including graduate workers, when planning in-person activities for the Fall semester. We reiterate our demands again on July 20, 2021.

In the letter, AGSEM has presented the survey results and put forward specific requests with regard to the issues discussed in letters A), B), D), and E):

  • Since it was not a guarantee that the entire undergraduate population will be fully vaccinated by September given the international portfolio of students at McGill which have meant to be the reality, AGSEM demanded making masks mandatory in indoor classrooms and offices, if in-person classes are held, for the safety of all graduate student employees. We are happy that it is currently in place! Additionally, AGSEM demanded that teaching assistants be allowed to hold office hours or any other tasks related to the teaching assistantship online, rather than in person, if they feel safer doing so. McGill indicated to the union that they are open to single accommodations for TAs but want to leave the decision to the employers so if you need assistance requesting an accommodation or if you are not able to be accommodated, please feel free to contact the union and we will be happy to assist you in your requests to the employer.

  • Given the importance of teaching assistantship wages and other on-campus employment wages for graduate students, AGSEM demanded that no centralized reduction of teaching assistantships take place in Fall 2021. We demanded that any department reducing teaching or research assistantships significantly from previous semesters must provide a justification for such a decision. So far, we have heard that some departments are experiencing a decrease in the number of hours in TA contracts without necessarily decreasing the tasks requested to be completed by the TA. If it is the case, feel free to contact us at any time in order to prevent you working more hours than what is written in your contacts.

  • 47.2 percent of the respondents wanted to continue working fully remotely, and the additional 26.8 percent would prefer that at least classes above 150 students are taught remotely in Fall 2021. The reasons provided by the survey participants included uncertainty around travel restrictions in Canada for international graduate student employees, interacting with undergraduate populations which might not be fully vaccinated, and an inclination to a precautionary approach given the emergence of new variants of COVID-19 across the world. Since McGill is already prepared to deliver classes remotely, AGSEM urged the administration to recognize the in-person comfort levels of graduate student employees and to consider remote--or partially remote--delivery of classes in Fall 2021. Our priority is that all members of the union work in a safe environment. If you are not feeling safe because of the sanitary conditions, if the sanitary measures are not followed by individuals around you or if you refused a contract because of the sanitary conditions put in place by McGill, feel free to contact us and we will be happy to help you.

The union is currently asking McGill to give the choice to TAs for working online or in-person when it is possible so if you are not happy with the situation you have been offered for your TA in Fall 2021, please contact the union and we will see how we can help you!

You want to become a delegate?

We are currently looking for AGSEM members who would like to get involved in the union! You can contact Antonia at mobilization@agsem-aeedem.ca and become a delegate for your department; as TA or invigilator. You will be able to participate in union activities and help your colleagues know their right in their work at McGill. Many delegate positions are opening in the next few months. Do not hesitate to send us an email!

Invigilators

Negotiation Update

AGSEM and McGill began negotiations for a new Collective Agreement in March 2021. The Invigilator Bargaining Committee went to the table twice since the last newsletter update in May. On June 10, we had a shortened negotiation session and finalized the text for Article 3. Due to various vacation breaks, both parties agreed to reach the end of Article 6 negotiations before breaking for the summer.

On June 17, we opened and closed negotiations on Article 6, Harassment and Discrimination (and Sexual Violence). We won all of our demands, including: a definition of systemic discrimination, a 2-year for filing grievances related to Article 6, a process for requesting accommodations from McGill HR, the right to representation at any step of a complaint or grievance related to Article 6, and explicit protection against discrimination related to gender identity or gender expression. Other changes incorporated the standards adopted under the new University Policy on Harassment and Discrimination and University Policy Against Sexual Violence to the invigilator work context.

Negotiations started again on September 9 with Article 8, Grievances and Arbitration. The committee spent the remainder of the summer working on a mobilization strategy and preparing to return to the table in the fall. We will continue to update you with significant developments as the negotiations progress.

Invigilator Delegates

If you have worked as an Invigilator at any point between now and Winter 2019, you are likely eligible to become an AGSEM Invigilator Delegate. TA and Invigilator Delegates meet once a month as the Delegates’ Council and represent their Hiring Units to establish priorities for the Union. Invigilator representation is especially important now that we are in collective negotiations. Invigilator Delegates are compensated with a $125 honorarium to attend at least two Delegate Council meetings per semester. If you are interested in becoming an Invigilator Delegate, please contact mobilization@agsem-aeedem.ca.

Winner of the participation prizes for the invigilator survey 2020-2021

Congratulations to Atagün and Mahmoud for both winning a $25 gift certificate card for having participated in the survey launched by AGSEM to get your feedback on the current Invigilator collective agreement in order to better negotiate your next one.You are all welcome to continue sending us comments anytime. Thank you to all who participated!

Cancelled Shifts

All invigilators who were scheduled to work shifts that were cancelled and attended the training session are entitled to compensation under the Collective Agreement. Our Invigilator Grievance Officer has already secured this compensation and will be getting in touch with the concerned invigilators soon. If you have any questions or concerns about this, do reach out at grievance.2@agsem-aeedem.ca.

Retroactive Wage Increases for TAs

Now that our new Collective Agreement (CA) is in effect, McGill was supposed to issue retroactive wage increases before April 1st for two lapsed raises since Winter, 2019. Everybody should have received their retroactive payment by now. If you think you should have received back pay or you didn’t receive it or if you think there has been any other error, let grievance.1@agsem-aeedem.ca know right away.

If you have a Fall 2021 TA position, your payment should be at the current wage rate of $32.38 for all hours paid since the beginning of August. Members should check Workday to make sure that they are being paid at the correct wage rate, and reach out to the union if not.

Workday Update

**The most recent major update about Workday can be found here, and we have a new website about Workday concerns here.**

We continue to follow up with McGill Human Resources to try to resolve the ongoing issues with Workday around late pay and more. In Mid-December, before the holiday, we sent another press release that has been covered on several platforms: Workday Means More Work (and No Pay) for TAs at McGill which have been covered on Cision, Business insider or Ground news. Then, on March 2nd 2021, we sent an open letter to Principal Fortier requesting for changes Following this letter, we met with her and Vice-Principal Beauchamps to explain our concerns about the lack of support for employees using Workday. The issues with payroll largely stem from the hiring process. We know that AGSEM members may have spent a long time working on solutions to Workday-related issues on their own. Please keep in mind that payroll and employee management is an employer’s responsibility, and that if you are spending time trying to sort Workday issues, this should be reflected in your Workload form.

Our Response: Grievances and Labour Relations

AGSEM has filed several collective grievances against McGill for the violation of your labour rights, including late pay and mailed cheques. Considering the little process, we recently filed for arbitration on those grievances for late pay. We have followed up recently with more information for everyone who has been named on a grievance, if information was available. We are additionally following up with HR in our Labour Relations Committee about all issues that are negatively impacting AGSEM members, and continuing to fight for a fair settlement for everyone affected.

AGSEM's claim includes financial compensation for members. For those whose pay was late, a $50 flat fee per payroll period and interest of 1.24% charged monthly on the entirety of each unpaid TA’s contract until the pay is issued. For those paid by cheque, an additional $50 flat fee. The standard AGSEM used for this claim is the late fees and interest that McGill charges its own students on overdue balances for fees and tuition. So, once members receive the wages that are due to them, the union will focus on securing this compensation for everyone who was paid late, and/or by cheque. Last month, the union received an offer from McGill that proposed to compensate all members affected by late pay with a proposed settlement of a $25 flat fee with $15 for any additional pay period. The union believes that the offer is not enough and is currently looking to make a counter offer to resolve this issue as soon as possible.

According to the TA Collective Agreement, our members must be paid within 30 days of starting work. We have requested a list of members who were issued a cheque (violation of our Collective Agreement) and a list of members who did not get paid yet (also a violation of our Collective Agreement). AGSEM is therefore requesting an audit from McGill to make sure that all employees have received their total pay since the Workday system has been implemented at McGill which McGill refuses to do. Until all the issues in Workday are solved, AGSEM is requesting a task force that includes representatives from employee groups, power users and associations at McGill, as well as members of McGill's R2R team who work on system upgrades. We need to solve all the issues, minor and major, in a systematic way: small fixes are not sustainable.

If you’re facing Workday issues, please email grievance.1@agsem-aeedem.ca right away!

Update on Udrive campaign

On April 30, 2020, the Unionization team submitted a request for accreditation to McGill with the help of the CSN to represent all academic casuals (Unit 3) at the Tribunal administratif du Travail (TAT). This process is still active and we are hopeful of a positive outcome.

The delays are explained by the fact that the list of people subject to accreditation submitted by the employer (McGill University) was, in our opinion, inadequate and incomplete. Following several discussions with the TAT judge on the filing, as well as with employer representatives, we submitted a new list on February 25, 2021 with our comments and remarks. Names were added, based on those we have collected membership cards from, and others were removed based on their position not representing that of what the team deemed to be appropriate Unit 3. Last month, we received a response from McGill on which we made some progress but still do not agree on the response. We will keep you updated.

Please email us at udrive@agsem-aeedem.ca if you have any comments or questions.

New TA collective Agreement!

In mid-December, the new TA Collective Agreement was signed and came into effect and remains until July 2023. We have prepared a PDF summary of the major changes here, and will have a website, info sessions, and more about the new Collective Agreement.

Recent Solidarity Initiatives

AGSEM EC stands in solidarity with the gathering organized by ‘Riposte syndicale/Socialist Fightback, and Montreal IWW

Last year, they launched the initiative and this year was the second of what should hopefully become an annual tradition of anticapitalist labour organizing in the city. All unions and organizations wishing to revive the radical traditions of their movement were invited to attend in large numbers to the large gathering in Montreal on Labour Day, September 6th. 2021.

AGSEM stands in solidarity with members of the Muslim community in Canada and condemns all anti-Muslim hate crimes.

On June 6th, 2021, four members of a Muslim family in London, Ontario were killed in a hit-and-run incident. Ontario Police reported that the incident was a targeted attack motivated by religious hatred. Since then, the suspect has been formally charged and prosecuted for an act of terrorism. While denouncing the attack, the Canadian Prime Minister cited numerous incidents of anti-Muslim violence in recent years.

Meanwhile, recent data from Statistics Canada reveals that the number of police-reported hate crimes is up by 30 percent since 2014. Many of the 2,000 hate crimes documented each year are related to religious persecution. It is also seen that the pandemic has exacerbated hate crimes in Canada.

In response to the Islamophobic attack from June 6, 2021, on June 16th, 2021, AGSEM’s Executive Council approved a solidarity motion condemning all anti-Muslim and religion-based hate crimes.

Previous Solidarity Initiatives

Organizing against the crisis: a united response to the July 1st wave of evictions in Montreal

Since the pandemic, unemployment has risen enormously while the vacancy rate of Montreal rentals has also shot up, following a record-low year when no one wanted to risk leaving their apartment due to both the virus and ballooning rents. Vacancy rates are up again, following a wave of evictions and especially renovictions, many of which are fraudulent, and rents have exploded across the country. Meanwhile, the government has flagged on its electoral promises to build social housing units, and homeless shelters are overflowing to sometimes fatal degrees while police budgets and powers expand. All this conspires against tenants—including many McGill graduate students and workers.

AGSEM signed the letter of support for the coalition led by Anti-Gentrification Coeur-de-L'Ile, Verdun Ensemble Contre La Gentrification, and other tenants’ rights organizations that are currently preparing an online anti-gentrification town hall. The town hall will consist of representatives from groups across the Montreal left, including other housing and tenants’ groups, police abolition groups, labour organizations including unions and worker parties, anti-racist organizations and more.

You can learn more about Coeur-de-L'Ile here.

Follow them on twitter at @coeurdelile

Decent Work and Health Network: Paid Sick Days

The Decent Work and Health Network, an Ontario-based initiative, is working to raise awareness of the limitations of the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit program, and is advocating for the legislation of seven (7) permanent, paid sick days for all workers and an additional fourteen (14) days during public health outbreaks for Canadian workers. Additionally, Fight for $15 and Fairness will be hosting an organizing session on March 23rd, and April 20th at 7pm to discuss further efforts to advance issues around paid sick days and workplace safety in the Ontario context. AGSEM invites its members to sign a petition to be sent to the Prime Minister and the Premier in the signer’s province or territory in support of the initiative. In addition, AGSEM EC encourages its Ontario-based members to contract their MPPs to demand paid sick days using the script available on the Fight for $15 and Fairness website.

Mobilization Update

Workday

The Mobilization Officer recently held a weeklong focus on social media about Workday. Missed it? All the images are available here, along with our older campaigns!

Mobilization Committee

The Mobilization is actively working on 3 current priorities and developing related Information Campaigns for the following initiatives:

  1. Workday Issues

  2. Solidarity Motions of Support

  3. Progress of the Invigilator Bargaining Committee

More to come on Social Media, so please make sure to follow all our AGSEM accounts to stay up to date on ongoing initiative announcements!

Follow us on: Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!

For any Mobilization related questions, please contact the Mobilization Officer at mobilization@agsem-aeedem.ca

AGSEM Graphics

Did you know that we now have a website dedicated to our guides, info-sheets, graphics, and more? We even have an AGSEM 101 Guide! Check it out here.

If you have any questions, concerns, or comments, please contact us at mail@agsem-aeedem.ca.

In Solidarity,

Your Executive, Bargaining, and Unionization Drive Committees