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AGSEM Newsletter - January 2023



Dear AGSEM members, old and new,


We wish you a successful start of the Winter semester!

The Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM) is the oldest TA union in Quebec, and represents both Teaching Assistants and Invigilators employed at McGill. This newsletter has some important information about upcoming events, training sessions and meetings, as well as your labour rights.


Contents
  • Training, Workshops, and Events

  • Important Reminders

  • Negotiations, Labor Relations, and Unionization Drive

  • In the Community

 
Training, Workshops, and Events

Skillsets TA Training

SKILLSETS is offering training sessions for new and returning Teaching Assistants from January 17-27. Workshops cover a range of topics, such as teaching strategies, maintaining positive learning environments for your students, supporting student engagement in learning, grading and assessment, and more!

New TAs are eligible to earn an additional three hours of pay at the TA rate by completing at least three hours of the SKILLSETS TA Training! See the “Important Reminders” section below for more information.

RSVP through the SKILLSETS website: https://www.mcgill.ca/skillsets/offerings/ta-training

AGSEM 101 and Organizer Training Sessions

Do you want to learn more about your union and labour organizing? Are you looking to get involved in ongoing initiatives to improve our working conditions? Are there causes important to you that AGSEM can advance?

AGSEM’s Mobilization Officer, Kiersten, is holding two separate training sessions this month for regular (rank-and-file) members of AGSEM, as well as new members of our Delegates’ Council:

  • Monday, January 16, 6:00pm, hybrid—AGSEM office/Zoom (Organizer Training I: Getting to Know Your Union), RSVP here

    • Learn about the history of AGSEM, our structure, committees, and working groups, as well as how you can get involved in your union.


  • Thursday, January 26, 9:30am, Zoom (Organizer Training II: Successful Labour Organizing), RSVP here

    • Learn the basics of labour organizing, the importance of mobilization, practical skills for talking with your fellow workers, and more.


If these dates do not work for you, and you want to have an orientation to AGSEM and/or the Delegates’ Council, or otherwise get involved, email Kiersten at mobilization@agsem-aeedem.ca, and we can have a chat!

Throwback to Fall 2022 Final Exams

Dear invigilators, thank you for coming to chat with us at the mobilization table during the Fall 2022 final exams!

Thank you to invigilator delegates Sneha Senthil and Cindy Garcia who distributed snacks, AGSEM brochures, pins, and N95 masks to invigilators at several exam locations. Tabling and more to come in the upcoming final exam period!


 
Important Reminders

You Must be Paid for All Mandatory Training

Under Article 11.02.02 of the TA Collective Agreement, any course-specific training required by the Course Supervisor shall be paid. If you are a new TA, this includes the mandatory one hour of TA training outlined in 13.06.01. This also includes the Employee program of the “It Takes All of Us” Sexual Violence Prevention training. All hours for required training should be accounted for on the Workload Form that you fill out with your supervisor at the start of term. Track your hours throughout the semester to make sure you do not work above your contract!

As mentioned above, if you are a first-time TA this Winter, you are entitled to earn an additional three hours of pay at the TA rate by completing at least three hours of the SKILLSETS New TA Training. This is paid on top of your current TA contract—ie. these hours should not be listed on your Workload Form. Your right to this paid training is outlined in Article 16.06.02 of the Collective Agreement. If you are a returning TA, you are not eligible to receive compensation, but you still may attend the workshops. RSVP through SKILLSETS.

All Invigilators should receive training before the first time they work in a hiring unit for each semester. Under Article 13.06 of the Invigilator Collective Agreement, you must be paid for any mandatory training attended by you as an invigilator. This also includes the Employee program of the “It Takes All of Us” Sexual Violence Prevention training, if you have not been paid for this training as part of different employment at McGill.

If you have any questions about training as a TA or Invigilator, please contact us at mail@agsem-aeedem.ca.

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 do not receive your pay within 30 days, something may be wrong with the administration of your pay on Workday. Please contact us at grievance.1@agsem-aeedem.ca as soon as possible so we can help you resolve the issue.

Sign your AGSEM Membership Form!

Teaching Assistants and Invigilators can fill out their AGSEM membership form online. You can sign your form 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.

 
Negotiations, Labor Relations, and Unionization Drive

Labour Relations: AGSEM Mask Mandates

At our November 30 General Assembly, AGSEM members passed three motions related to masks and mask advocacy. The first mandated the Executive Committee to advocate for a campus-wide mask mandate, the second mandated mask-wearing at AGSEM events and meetings, and the third mandated the union to provide N95 masks to invigilators during the Fall final exam session.

Related to the first motion, AGSEM President Mario Roy sent the following email to the head of McGill Human Resources after HR forwarded the following webpage to unions and associations about McGill’s COVID-19 planning: https://www.mcgill.ca/return-to-campus/.

“Thank you for sharing this information with us but the content raises some concerns, especially when there is the ongoing triple outbreak of COVID-19, RSV, and flu which has overwhelmed emergency rooms and put workers and students at risk of infection. COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses present a health and safety risk for all AGSEM members. People with certain disabilities and chronic illnesses are at higher risk for serious health complications and death as a result of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses. Reducing the spread of disease and minimising sickness is an act of solidarity toward workers, students and the population in general.

On November 14, 2022, the Quebec College of Physicians recommended that individuals wear masks in public spaces. We understand that the province has lifted all mask mandates in non-medical settings and that you defer to provincial health for mask policies on campus but we would like to remind you that the public health guidelines recommend wearing masks in high traffic areas. The AGSEM Executive reiterates its demand that McGill should provide N95 masks as well as mask education for all students and employees of the university. The AGSEM General Assembly advocates for mask wearing in in-person settings across campus.

Finally, It is undeniable that mask-wearing and ventilation reduce the risk of transmission of several infectious respiratory diseases. We demand that McGill provide transparent information about ventilation in specific rooms across campus and improve ventilation to scientifically supported standards.”

This email was forwarded to McGill’s Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Covid Academic Planning and Policies. You are all welcome to send any concerns that you may have about COVID-19 to this committee as well. We want and deserve to work in a safe environment! https://www.mcgill.ca/senate/committeesofsenate/ad-hoc-committees/ad-hoc-advisory-committee-covid-academic-planning-and-policies

Unionization Campaign Update: Unfavourable court decision

We would like to inform you about a recent court decision that is rejecting our demand for accreditation to unionize all part-time academic support workers at McGill. The legal battle between McGill University and the CSN (Confédération des syndicats nationaux, our union affiliate) over unionizing casual academic workers has extended for over two years. Following a vote among possible members in September, McGill challenged the results on the basis of who should be included in the results. A judge at the Tribunal administratif du travail ruled in their favour last month. Needless to say, the AGSEM unionization drive team is deeply disappointed by this outcome.

Sadly, we are aware that McGill University Human Resources administrators and lawyers have continued to do everything in their power to prevent McGill workers from unionizing. Their tactics towards AGSEM’s unionization drive are mirrored in their abusive litigation to challenge the certification of the Association of McGill Professors of Law (AMPL) union—the first union of professors at McGill. The Board of Governors and Administration should be ashamed of their long-term actions perpetrated against the labour movement at McGill.

CSN is now evaluating possible avenues to move forward. Rest assured, AGSEM will continue this fight for as long as necessary. You are welcome to share your support or any other questions or concerns with President Mario Roy at president@agsem-aeedem.ca.

Invigilator Collective Agreement

After a year and a half of negotiations, Invigilators approved the tentative agreement reached between the Bargaining Committee and McGill University at our November 17, 2022 assembly!

The new hourly rate of pay of $15.75 plus 6% vacation ($16.70) is effective as of December 11, 2022. The raise will come in the form of a retroactive payment, and will be implemented on the first pay date following thirty (30) working days of the signature of the Collective Agreement. Retroactive payments for all hours paid between December 11, 2022 and the implementation date of the new hourly rate of pay, will be processed within ninety (90) working days of the signing of the Collective Agreement.

We are still waiting for McGill to translate the agreement to French before we are able to sign our new Collective Agreement. Once we sign, all other provisions go into effect. We anticipate this will happen in early 2023.

For everything other than the wage, the working conditions established in our previous Collective Agreement are still in effect until the new Collective Agreement is signed.

 
In the Community

McGill Postdocs in negotiation for better working conditions

Since June 2021, the Association of McGill University Research Employees (AMURE) has been in negotiation for a new collective agreement for postdoctoral students. McGill postdocs currently have the lowest minimum salary of all full-time positions at McGill. The latest monetary offer from McGill, moreover, is below what it offered to other employees at McGill. Other major demands include professional development allowances, paid sick days, and parental leave. Learn more on the AMURE website.

We encourage all AGSEM members to show their support for AMURE’s negotiations by signing the following open letter: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScJT81lW6Ega-BPs5BFTNAgRJWc5y3OVOYiVNTZSUwoXqZn5Q/viewform?fbzx=2015077836014137095.

AGSEM stands in solidarity with Concordia TAs and RAs

AGSEM President, Mario, gave a few words to support the November 30 rally of our comrades at the Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia (TRAC) union. TRAC will begin negotiations for a new Collective Agreement in May 2023, and one of their primary demands is a pay raise above inflation. Read more about the rally and TRAC’s demands here.


AGSEM President Mario Roy at the TRAC rally. Photo by @martaaav.


Throwback to AGSEM at the December FNEEQ congress

From December 7-9, 2022, AGSEM participated in a congress of our affiliate, FNEEQ (Fédération Nationale des Enseignant.e.s du Québec), in Québec City. Five AGSEM delegates were appointed to attend the congress: Mario Roy (AGSEM President), Kiersten van Vliet (Mobilization Officer), Jean-Philip Mathieu (TA Grievance Officer), as well as Vivian and Germano Belfo (invigilator delegates).

Numerous subjects affecting higher education and union activities were discussed at this congress, including the valorization of the French language in education. We took this opportunity to present a motion to mandate the FNEEQ to lobby the government for an increase in French language resources available to teaching support staff within anglophone universities. Finally, these congresses are always incredibly important to create links with other unions and build solidarity among workers in Quebec’s educational sector.



Mario and Kiersten with representatives of the Regroupement Université of FNEEQ


Research Survey: Portrait of Precarity in our Workplaces

On behalf of the Laval University research team, we invite you to fill out a survey aimed to better illustrate the problem of precarity in the workplace. The survey is available in English and in French and is open until January 20.

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

Your Executive, Bargaining, and Unionization Drive Committees

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