Hey AGSEM members,
Love is in the air this month in the form of solidarity—one of the sweetest, most unconditional ways we can care for our fellow workers. We hope you had the opportunity to see our Valentine’s Day stickers and posters around campus!
Meetings and Events
Meet Your Delegate
Labor Relations and TA Negotiations
In the Community
Meetings and Events
Town Hall on Graduate Funding
We’re teaming up with PGSS next month to hold a Town Hall on Graduate Funding. Join us March 9 from 6:00-7:30pm in McConnell Engineering 304. Dinner will be provided. RSVP on our website!
Come learn more about the infuriatingly complex and uneven funding and wage structures for grad students—share your experience in facilitated small groups and connect with current and new movements for better living. We’ll hear from folks who have been researching the situation at McGill to understand the landscape of interconnected problems we face. Then we’ll talk about what’s been tried so far, through more formal committees and PGSS work, AGSEM bargaining, and efforts from the physics GSA. Finally we’ll shift toward what we can do together in the future to creatively fight unfair funding together. <3
In the meantime, help us better understand how funding and TA positions interact in your department of study by filling out our short survey.
Assemblies, Assemblies Galore!
We’re coming to that point of the year when we have to start planning elections and approving our budget. We are also in an important pre-bargaining year when we collectively establish our priorities for the next round of TA negotiations—which are set to begin in Fall 2023.
We’ll be sending out reminders closer to each date, but we wanted to make sure you have the following meetings on your radar. As usual, you can RSVP on our website by following the links below:
General Assembly, Tuesday, March 28, Leacock 219 and Zoom, Annual Budget
General Assembly, Monday, April 17, Leacock 219 and Zoom, Elections
TA Unit Assembly, Thursday, April 27, Leacock 219 and Zoom, Bargaining Proposal Vote
Please note, you must fill out your AGSEM membership form to participate in these meetings. You can sign your form online here. Remember to sign and submit a membership form for each semester that you work! Please note, if you work as a Teaching Assistant and an Invigilator you must submit two membership forms, one for each respective position.
Keep Track of Your Hours!
As we approach Reading Week, it is important to remember to keep track of your hours as much as possible. Overwork is one of the most frequent complaints among TAs, with over 48% of TAs working over their contracted hours. You are under no obligation to work over your hours, and you should not be pressured to do so.
Here are a few tips and reminders about your rights to help you manage your workload this semester:
We have prepared this document with resources to help you keep track of your hours, including a link to a spreadsheet and time-tracking applications.
It is your job to inform your Course Supervisor if you are at risk of working over your hours. We know from experience that these conversations can be difficult. If you want support in a meeting you can request your departmental Delegate or an AGSEM Officer to attend with you, or you can copy your delegate or the TA Grievance Officer on emails to your supervisor.
Fill out your Workload Form! We know it can be a bureaucratic pain in the behind to fill out, but this is one of the measures we negotiated with McGill to ensure a mutual agreement with your Course Supervisor on the distribution of hours in your contract.
You have the right to review previous Workload Forms for your course upon request. This can help you determine how the hours in your contract should be allocated.
Okay, so you filled out your Workload Form and maybe reviewed forms from past semesters—now what? Well, there should also be a midterm review of this Workload Form. This is the time that you can adjust your hours, as necessary. Does marking take longer than originally budgeted? Did enrollment change? You may have to reduce your workload later in the semester to stay within your hours. Alternatively, your Supervisor may need to request additional hours from the department.
We only have one necessary review of the Workload Form, but here’s a tip: you can review your Workload Form with your Supervisor as many times as you need during the semester until it accurately reflects your workload.
Your department granted you more hours—that’s great! Make sure this increase is reflected in your pay stubs. Contact us as soon as you notice any issues with late or missing pay.
What if you are offered more hours for your position, but you are too busy to work any more than the amount in your original contract? That’s okay! You are under no obligation to work any additional hours that are granted by the department! You are within your rights to say you will work your contracted hours, and no more.
What if the department is offering you additional hours but at a rate below the TA wage? This is not okay! Additional hours granted for a course with TAs must be offered at the TA rate, which is $33.03/hour. If your department is outsourcing TA work to graders or undergraduate TEAM TAs, let us know!
If you work less hours in your contract, you don’t have to pay back the difference! As it says in Article 11.03 of our Collective Agreement “The University shall not require an Employee to reimburse or to carry forward to another term any hours not worked in the appointment.” This includes short-term leaves of absence like missing a conference or lab—you do not need to pay for your replacement out of your pocket! Either your workload is adjusted with another TA (maybe you pick up their section or some of their grading to make up the difference), or your department has to come up with the additional hours to pay your replacement.
Questions? Concerns? For advice or information about your rights as a TA, email us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. All inquiries are kept strictly confidential and you will never be pressured to pursue a grievance if you decide not to.
Payroll and Workday
If you are working as a TA or Invigilator, you are paid by direct deposit biweekly on Thursdays (see the pay schedule here).
If you are a TA, your contract is averaged over the length of your contract (usually a semester). You do not need to fill out a timesheet on Workday to get paid. Since your pay is averaged over the semester, it is up to you to keep track of the hours you are working and inform your supervisor if you are at risk of working over your hours. We have prepared a few resources to help you keep track of your hours on our website.
If you are an Invigilator, you will need to submit timesheets of the hours you work on Workday.
As a TA, you should receive your pay within 30 days of starting work. If you have not received your pay yet, something may be wrong with the administration of your pay on Workday. Please contact us at email@example.com as soon as possible so we can help you resolve the issue.
Meet Your Delegate
"Historically, [unionizing] is the only organizing tool that allowed workers to seriously demand better working conditions and their fair share from the employer and the state. A lot of these working conditions are often taken for granted today without the knowledge that it required and keeps requiring constant fighting from unions, such as AGSEM, to keep these rights alive."
Read our Q&A with Loïc Nassif, an AGSEM TA Delegate and a PhD student in Computer Science at McGill
Want to get to know other AGSEM delegates? Read more Q&As here.
Are you interested in becoming a delegate for your department? Curious about projects your union is working on? Do you want to learn more about your union? Do you just want to chat about your working conditions or your ideas about organized labour? Email Kiersten at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in becoming an AGSEM delegate or a member of an existing committee or working group. If you have ideas for events, projects, a new working group, or how we can better support you in your role as a worker we want to hear from you!
Labor Relations and TA Negotiations
Meeting with Angela Campbell and Fabrice Lebeau
On February 3, 2023, the AGSEM Executive Committee met with Acting McGill Co-Provosts Angela Campbell and Fabrice Lebeau. During the meeting the union executives presented some of the most important issues AGSEM members currently face in their work.
These matters include:
The urgency to provide more clarity in graduate funding letters that graduate students at McGill receive at the beginning of their program. These letters almost never differentiate between scholarship-based funding and paid labor. As a result, many prospective students accept the offer of admission without the full understanding of how much TA and/or RA workload will be expected of them to maintain a livable level of income. AGSEM executives urged the co-Provosts to take a close look at this matter and increase the level of transparency of the graduate funding letters;
The importance of democratizing the governance of the university and to support the functioning of working groups and other platforms where McGill higher administration can receive input from labor unions on campus;
The ongoing, alarmingly low, level of functionality of the Workday system, especially for short-term contract workers like Teaching Assistants and Invigilators;
The negative effects of the high turnover of McGill administration employees on the progression of projects in the university.
The co-Provosts were also informed about the consensus that the AGSEM General Assembly has reached on November 30, 2022, when the motion to advocate for campus-wide mask mandate was approved.
If you have any questions or feedback, please contact us at email@example.com.
TA Pre-Bargaining Survey Winner Results
In Fall 2022, the TA pre-Bargaining Committee ran a survey to get your feedback on our Collective Agreement.
Three lucky winners were drawn from survey participants. Congratulations to Deeksha Arya (PhD 5 Computer Science), Cassiea Sim (MSc 2 Education), and Alper Gungor (PhD 1 Philosophy)!
The results of this survey is helping to inform the bargaining proposal the TA Bargaining Committee will present at the April 27 TA Unit Assembly.
In the Community
PGSS Funding Survey
The PGSS Funding Working Group (FWG) would like to encourage all graduate students to complete the 2022-2023 graduate funding survey.
This 10-minute survey is designed to assess the adequacy of student funding across all graduate programs at McGill. The results will inform discussions with the McGill administration about how graduate students can be better supported financially.
We encourage our members to share their voices! PGSS will be raffling off 25 gift cards valued at $25 (for the online retailer of your choice) as a thank-you for completing the survey.
Survey in English: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LCJKPGC
Survey in French: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LCRNMJ3
Survey closes: March 7, 2023
If you have any questions or concerns about the survey, please email the FWG at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Academic Freedom Policy Consultation
AGSEM has been invited to give feedback on McGill’s Policy on Academic Freedom. If you would like to provide confidential feedback to the policy as a Teaching Assistant, Invigilator, or other academic support worker at McGill, you can email AGSEM President Mario at email@example.com. He will collate and forward all feedback to the co-Provosts received by February 28.
UofT Law Union Open Letter
Earlier this month, the AGSEM Delegates’ Council endorsed an open letter by the University of Toronto Law Union denouncing the UofT’s “Supported Leave Policy.” This policy allows administrators to place a student on leave if they’re found to be a threat to others. This policy has been widely condemned for discriminating against students with mental illness. You can read more about why this policy is harmful here: https://bit.ly/UV-UMLAP-overview. Another report outlines the impact on international students.
McGill students, including the AGSEM Mental Health Working Group, successfully opposed the introduction of a similar policy at McGill in 2019. The Involuntary Leave Policy Suspended was eventually suspended in 2019. The AGSEM Delegates’ Council encourages all members of AGSEM to stand in solidarity with the UofT Law Union in their efforts to oppose this discriminatory policy.
SPPEUQAM Celebrates 45th Anniversary
On February 9, the Syndicat des professeures et professeurs enseignants de l’UQAM (SPPEUQAM), the course lecturer union of the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) celebrated their 45th anniversary with drinks and dancing. The SPPEUQAM is the oldest course lecturer union in Quebec. AGSEM President Mario Roy, along with other representative from our union’s affiliate from FNEEQ, CCMM, CSN et others, celebrated with our comrades from UQAM
In terms of anniversaries—keep your eyes peeled for upcoming anniversary events to celebrate AGSEM’s 30th anniversary this year! More information to come!
Mario with SPPEUQAM President Olivier Aubry
If you have any questions, concerns, or comments, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your Executive, Bargaining, and Unionization Drive Committees