AGSEM Newsletter - June/July 2021

Updated: Aug 19


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Affordable Housing and Tenants' Rights Survey

Are you affected by gentrification, renovictions, or the current housing crisis? AGSEM has recently been invited to join an anti-gentrification town hall co-organized by housing and tenants' rights organizations and volunteer groups across Montreal.

By filling out this short 5-minute survey you are helping us understand how we can best represent our members' needs related to affordable housing and tenants' rights at that event. The survey is anonymous.


Thank you for taking the time to share your answers with us!


The 33rd FNEEQ (Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec) Congress

Between June 1-4, several AGSEM members represented our union as the delegates at the 33rd Congress of our affiliate union, FNEEQ-CSN. At the congress, Christine Gauthier was selected as a new vice-president (University) of the FNEEQ. Congratulations!

To learn more about FNEEQ and the recent congress, visit: https://fneeq.qc.ca/fr/congres_2021/#1615989442882-b92be286-2ddd (French only).


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.


PGSS and AGSEM are looking forward to hearing from you again in August, when we will conduct an updated version of the survey in order to understand graduate students’ comfort levels, needs, and preferences for the upcoming semester.


In the interim, please feel free to use the feedback form on the AGSEM website for any comments.


AGSEM’s letter to McGill upper administration


On June 2nd, 2021 a virtual town hall was organized by Prof. Christopher Buddle and Prof. Fabrice Labeau on the various scenarios that could take place in Fall 2021. In particular, two scenarios were discussed: a) A realistic scenario where most of in person activities would be allowed and b) An optimistic scenario where all in person activities would be allowed. Neither of these scenarios took into account the preferences of graduate students.


In response to the concerns expressed by graduate students in the survey presented above, 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.


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 is not a guarantee that the entire undergraduate population will be fully vaccinated by September given the international portfolio of students at McGill, AGSEM demanded making masks mandatory in indoor classrooms and offices, if in-person classes are held, for the safety of all graduate student employees. 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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: June

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 will resume on September 9 with Article 8, Grievances and Arbitration. The committee will spend 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.


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. Refer to AGSEM’s blog post for details on the wage rates and what you need to know in order to ensure that you receive any back pay owed to you.

McGill has provided the union with a list of members who are currently set to receive retroactive raises. AGSEM has emailed each individual on this list, and the EC is in the process of analyzing our hiring data to determine if anyone has been left off. We need members’ help to catch any errors as soon as possible. Check your email (including your spam folder) to see if you have been contacted by the union and verify that the amount indicated is correct. If you think you should have received back pay or you didn’t receive an email from the union, or if you think there has been any other error, let grievance.1@agsem-aeedem.ca know right away.

If you have a Winter 2021 TA position, your payment should be at the current wage rate of $31.59 for all hours paid since the beginning of January. 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. There is legal precedent for interest paid to employees, and the fee is a fair claim for the unpaid hours members have sunk into efforts to resolve this ongoing issue. 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.


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 the 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. We continue to await a response from the employer on this matter and 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 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.


On April 27th and May 26th, 2021, AGSEM’s Executive Council approved two solidarity initiative motions:

Support for students and academic workers in Greece in their opposition to the new campus police bill

On February 11th, the Greek government passed a new bill on higher education, despite the unanimous opposition of the Greek academic community, progressive parties and even certain Police Unions. The bill introduces a new police force for university campuses which reports to the Ministry of Public Order rather than university authorities, despite operating costs being covered in part by university budgets. This task force will also be less trained and accountable than regular police. Greek Government officials falsely claim that the above is standard practice on campuses worldwide.

AGSEM stands in solidarity with Greek colleagues, students, parents, and citizens as they continue to oppose the creation of such a special university police force. We also want to affirm not only that such a task force does not exist on our campuses, but also that decreasing police presence in favor of institutions maintained and supported by the University community has been beneficial to campus life, academic freedom and teaching/learning conditions for instructors, TAs and students.

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


On February 1st, 2021, AGSEM’s Executive Council approved two solidarity initiative motions:


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.


United Graduate Workers of UNM


The United Graduate Workers of UNM is a recently formed graduate workers’ union and member of UE, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America with nearly 1,000 members, is committed to improving working conditions for all graduate workers at the University of New Mexico, and has reached out to the CGEU for support and connections. The University of New Mexico has filed a motion seeking to strip its graduate employees of our right to unionize under state law, reneging on its prior public commitment to respect the rights of graduate workers to organize, after a strong majority of graduate employees signed union cards and petitioned the State Labor Board for union recognition on December 9, 2020. In response, the United Graduate Workers of UNM has created a petition calling on UNM to recognize the rights of graduate workers to organize unions and collectively improve their working conditions. The AGSEM EC has added its signature to the petition and invites its members to do the same.


Previous Solidarity Initiatives


Additionally, as mentioned in the previous newsletter, during the December 14th, 2020 AGSEM Executive’ meeting the EC approved two motions to support local initiatives: the motion for AGSEM to join the Coalition Main Rouge and the motion to support the text ‘Déclaration de la Convergence pour la sortie de crise’. In addition, the AGSEM Executive Council has recently supported a petition in support of academic freedom for Boğaziçi University students and faculty. AGSEM invites all members to sign the petitions below.


Solidarity with Boğaziçi University Students and Faculty

The AGSEM Executive Council has recently signed a petition in support of academic freedom for Boğaziçi University students and faculty as a response to the police attacks and detention of participants in peaceful protests against the AKP's attempt to assert political control over Boğaziçi University in İstanbul. AGSEM invites its members to sign the petition in solidarity with this cause.


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 4 current priorities and developing related Information Campaigns for the following initiatives:

  1. Workday Issues

  2. Education on Retroactive Pay

  3. Solidarity Motions of Support

  4. 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