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AGSEM Newsletter - May-June 2023

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

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Hey hey, Invigilators and TAs!


At long last we have our May/June union newsletter! As you can see, we had an eventful spring, with several assemblies and rallies. We may now be in the middle of the summer, but things are in full swing here at AGSEM HQ, with a strong core of organizers preparing for the next academic year and our upcoming TA negotiations.


Don’t be a stranger! If you have any questions, concerns, or comments, please contact us anytime at mail@agsem-aeedem.ca.



In solidarity,


Your Executive and Bargaining Committees



Contents
  • Events

    • Trivia Night at Champs!

  • AGSEM News

    1. Fall TA Applications: Know Your Rights!

    2. Call for Support: International Students’ Working Group!

    3. May Day Rally

    4. April 27 TA Assembly

    5. April 13 Rally for TA Negotiations

    6. April 17 General Assembly

    7. Invigilator Collective Agreement: signed and in effect!

    8. March 28 General Assembly

  • Meet Your Bargaining Committee!

  • Meet Your Delegate!

  • In the Community

    1. AGSEM at the CSN Congress

    2. AGSEM at the FNEEQ Federal Council

    3. Bill 31: Lease transfers at risk!


Events

Trivia Night at Champs!

Calling all union gays, queers, and allies!!! Join fellow queer and trans AGSEM members at Champs for trivia Wednesday, June 21 at 7:30 pm at Champs Sports Bar (3956 St-Laurent)—look for the AGSEM buttons & get one of your own! Everyone is welcome!!


love,

Your AGSEM Queer Working Group



AGSEM News

1. Fall TA Applications: Know Your Rights!

By now, many departments have posted TA positions for Fall 2023 on Workday. We wanted to take a moment to remind you of your following rights:


  • All McGill graduate students have the right to apply for and accept a TA position. Full stop. This is in accordance with Appendix IV of our Collective Agreement. Your academic supervisor can advise you on your education and progress, such as whether taking a job is in your best interests for your workload or pedagogical training. But your supervisor cannot prevent you from applying for or taking a job or put pressure on you to forgo working as a TA because you have other sources of income or funding. No TA application form may require your supervisor’s signature. If you feel your academic supervisor or department has interfered with your employment, contact JP at grievance.1@agsem-aeedem.ca ASAP!!

  • TA positions are offered by academic departments, not by course instructors. Every TA must be hired fairly and compensated at the standard wage.

  • Applicants with Priority Pool status are given priority for a TA position, but not a specific position that they want. Some departments will still try to take your preferences into consideration.

  • You can request an extension to your Priority Pool status if you are taking a leave of absence before the semester starts, or want to balance your workload with fieldwork or comprehensive exams. You can extend your priority for up to two semesters by notifying your department. Always copy your AGSEM Delegate and/or the Grievance Officer (grievance.1@agsem-aeedem.ca) when requesting an extension of your priority.

  • You have the right to apply for and work TA positions in multiple departments. In fact, if you are qualified to work for multiple departments, this can increase your chances of getting a job!

  • If you have worked as a TA before, however, you only have priority for one position. You can work multiple positions in a department or across different departments if enough jobs are available for departments to respect the hiring priority of other applicants.

  • You should be notified about the outcome of your application no later than 35 days after the application deadline.

  • Once you accept your position, remember to sign your AGSEM membership form every semester that you work. Do it online here—it only takes a minute!

  • If you accept multiple positions, it is not a violation of our Collective Agreement to work more than 180 hours in a semester. However, it is your responsibility to respect any conditions on a student visa or grant, if applicable!

  • You have the right to reject a job offer or resign from a position you accepted without affecting your priority status for future TA employment so long as you resign before the start of your contract.

  • If you feel like a mistake was made in hiring or if anything else was amiss with the hiring process, please contact JP at grievance.1@agsem-aeedem.ca so we can investigate and verify whether the department has respected your rights! All emails are treated with confidentiality.


2. Call for Support: International Students’ Working Group!

We need more support to get our International Students’ Working Group up and running! If you are an international student and you want to collaborate with your fellow workers on issues affecting international students and international student employees, now is your chance to get involved with your union! Email Kiersten at mobilization@agsem-aeedem.ca to learn more!


Graduate student protestors at the International Workers' Day March, Photo credit: @mouvementcsn


3. May Day Rally for Increased Graduate Stipends

On May 1st, AGSEM hosted a walkout in support of liveable stipends for graduate students. This walkout was coordinated with a nationwide effort by Support Our Science to increase federal Tri-Council awards (SSHRC, NSERC, and CIHR), which have stagnated since 2005. We all deserve a raise! Graduate research is work!


Despite the rain, over 60 of us took over the entrance of the McGill Arts Building to make signs. Later, we met up with our CREW comrades at Concordia for chanting and speeches. Finally, we joined the International Workers' Day March in Verdun. It was a fun day all around! Check out our Instagram stories from the rally!!



4. April 27 Assembly: Bargaining Priorities and Elections!

We're heading into negotiations with McGill this Fall!! This means your union, AGSEM, and representatives from McGill will meet each other to negotiate the terms of our TA Collective Agreement. Our Collective Agreement is the contract governing the working conditions and rights of all graduate TAs at McGill.


Our eventful TA Assembly on April 27 led to the ratification of a strong bargaining mandate, the election of a new Bargaining Committee, the creation and election of a Bargaining Support Committee, and the adoption of a militant bargaining mobilization strategy.


Congratulations to Dallas Jokic (PhD in Philosophy), Nada El Baba (PhD in Biology), and Nick Vieira (PhD in Physics) on their election to the TA Bargaining Committee!!


Congratulations also to Loïc Nassif (PhD in Computer Science), Sebastian Wittekindt (PhD in Biology), Lucas Marques (PhD in Pharmacology), Nadia González Domínguez (MSc in Public Health), Cal Koger-Pease (PhD in Experimental Medicine), and Donnie Morard (PhD in History) for their election to the Bargaining Support Committee!!


And, a hearty thank you to our outgoing pre-Bargaining Committee committee of Karan, Praveen, and Dana for your hard work this past year!


This assembly was a crucial step as the union prepares to negotiate our TA Collective Agreement, which is expiring in July 2023. Do keep in mind that what we negotiate for and what will eventually become the new TA Collective Agreement is in the hands of all of us as a collective and will be the result of a majority vote at a TA assembly like the one on April 27!



AGSEM Biology Delegate (and future Bargaining Committee member!) Nada El Baba giving a speech at the April 13 rally


5. Rally for a TA Raise!!

On April 13, TAs took to the James Square outside of the James Administration Building to rally for a wage above inflation and the ballooning cost of living. AGSEM TAs also stood in solidarity with McGill Course Lecturers and their ongoing negotiations with McGill for a new Collective Agreement.


There was music, fiery speeches, & special visitors from the Concordia Research & Education Workers Union (CREW) and other unions at McGill and across the island! We also wrote notes to the admin and left them at their front door!! See the full gallery of photos on our website!


AGSEM and CREW militants pose for a photo after the rally


6. April 17 General Assembly: Committee Elections!

The second of our two spring General Assemblies was held on April 17 in hybrid format. The primary purpose of this assembly was to hold our annual executive and committee elections. Elected officials and committees also presented reports for the 2022-23 academic year.


Your 2023-24 Executive Committee is Mario Roy (President), Matei Petrescu (Secretary-Treasurer), Kiersten van Vliet (Mobilization Officer), Jean-Philip Mathieu (TA Grievance Officer), Teresa Joseph (Invigilator Grievance Officer), Marta Beszterda (External Communications Officer), and Aire McCall (Macdonald Campus Officer). Congratulations to all!


Big congratulations to all AGSEM members who ran for committee positions! The updated list of AGSEM committees is available here. We will be sharing Executive Committee Q&As in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!




7. Invigilator Collective Agreement: Signed and in effect!

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 Collective Agreement was signed on March 31, and is now in effect!


The full PDF of the Collective Agreement is available here. We also summarised some of the most salient points of the new agreement in our Winter 2023 Invigilator Newsletter.


Please note the following monetary adjustments with the signing of the Collective Agreement:


  • As of December 11, Invigilators have a raise of $15.75 per hour plus 6% vacation ($16.70), as well as another raise to $16.50 plus 6% vacation ($17.49) as of May 1st, 2023.

  • Some hiring units started paying the new rate directly to invigilators. Others are adhering to the following delays:

    • McGill must apply the raise to new hours worked within (30) working days of the signature of the Collective Agreement. This means as of May 17, all invigilators must be paid $16.50 plus 6% vacation ($17.49) directly per hour for all hours worked.

    • If you did not receive the new wage rates for any hours worked between December 11, 2022 and May 16, 2023, it will come to you in the form of a retroactive payment processed within ninety (90) working days of the signing of the Collective Agreement. As of August 11, all invigilators will receive any retroaction for all hours worked between December 11, 2022 and May 16, 2023.

  • You already had a 15-minute paid break for every 4 hours of work. Now, if you are unable to take your break, you will receive an additional 15 minutes worth of pay for that shift. Remember to add 15 minutes to your timesheet whenever you are unable to take your paid break because of overwork. If you did not claim any unused breaks on your timesheets, contact Teresa at grievance.2@agsem-aeedem.ca.

  • If you see any discrepancies with retroactive pay or experience any delays in your regular pay or retroaction, contact Teresa so she can help you get your money! Workday continues to be an issue for pay, but your union is here to help.


We know that hiring units were not adequately briefed on the new Invigilator Collective Agreement, and thus may have committed violations after the new CA came into effect. If you believe your rights were violated, please contact Teresa at grievance.2@agsem-aeedem.ca as soon as possible for advice or to pursue a grievance.


The union has 40 days of knowledge of the issue to pursue recourse with a grievance, but the grievance must be filed within 6 months of the last incident. You are in control of the grievance process—we will never pursue a grievance without your consent and you may withdraw a grievance at any time for any reason. Even if you do not wish to pursue a grievance, it will be helpful for us to know of any issues with implementing the collective agreement so we can work to prevent future violations of Invigilators’ rights.


AGSEM President Mario Roy, Bargaining Committee members Kiersten van Vliet and Andrea Hazelwood (not pictured: Gokcan Sahin), and FNEEQ union advisor Sébastien Boisvert sign the new Collective Agreement along with representatives from McGill


8. March 28 General Assembly: Finances!

On March 28, we had the first of two spring General Assemblies. The primary purpose of this assembly was for the Secretary-Treasurer to present the financial report of the previous year, approve the Audit Committee’s report of the union’s finances, and have the assembly approve the union’s budget for the coming fiscal year.


The union’s finances were found to be healthy and in good order!! Woo!


The assembly also passed several motions, including their unanimous support of a motion in solidarity with the worker-led campaign of the Concordia Research and Education Workers (CREW) Union to affiliate with the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) and end their parent relationship with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).




Meet Your Bargaining Committee!

On April 27, we elected our TA Bargaining Committee—three enthusiastic and capable TAs who will go to the table with McGill to win our demands.


Meet Nada El Baba (she/her), a second-year PhD student at McGill in the Biology department. Nada has worked as a TA since the Fall of 2021, and represented biology as a Delegate since 2022.


We sat down with Nada to chat about her background and interests, union work, and her hopes for the new TA Collective Agreement.



“We deserve and NEED a living wage. We are being absolutely crushed by inflation, and our stipends as students have been stagnant for far too long. We heavily depend on our TA pay to survive this damn cost of living crisis. Also, our healthcare packages as students (especially international students) are a joke, and we deserve a healthcare package as part of our employee benefits!”


Read the full Q&A with Nada. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more profiles of committee members!



Meet Your Delegate!

“As McGill employees, we are not requesting special treatment, but merely what we deserve. We currently live in an era of extreme income inequality. Not only does a robust labour union provide better wages and working conditions, but it also gives workers a sense of control over their own work lives. Our power resides in our collective voice.”


Read our Q&A with Dongliang Sheng (he/him), a fourth-year PhD candidate in Management (specializing in information systems) at McGill and our Management Delegate.


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 mobilization@agsem-aeedem.ca if you are interested in becoming a delegate.



In the Community

1. AGSEM at the CSN Congress

From May 15 to 19 2023 in Montreal, the Confédération des Syndicats Nationaux (CSN), our affiliate that represents over 330 000 workers, had their General Assembly. This important assembly happens once every three years. During this meeting, the budget was debated and established, as well as new policies the CSN will pursue in the next three years. In the picture below, Mario Roy, AGSEM President, is expressing the importance for the CSN to support all affiliated unions in their preparation of negotiating for their new collective agreement.


AGSEM President Mario Roy at the microphone


2. AGSEM at the FNEEQ Federal Council

The AGSEM Delegates’ Council sent 4 representatives to the FNEEQ Federal Council meeting in Shawinigan from May 31-June 2. The FNEEQ is our affiliate union that represents educational sector unions in Quebec, and they hold Federal Council meetings twice a year. In addition to the regular business of the meeting that included committee elections, financial reports and solidarity motions, there were several reports and recommendations made to local unions. In particular, the Council has recommended local unions have discussions among our membership about the critical and ethical impact of AI technologies on our work. Additionally, the Committee on Interculturality, Systemic Discrimination and Racism at Work and in Education presented an Antiracist Guide (in French) that we will consult to improve both our workplace protections as TAs and Invigilators and the Equity Policy and Complaints Procedure internal to AGSEM.


3. Bill 31: Lease transfers at risk!

The CAQ provincial government recently tabled Bill 31, An Act to amend various legislative provisions relating to housing. If Bill 31 passes, it would allow landlords to reject any requests for a lease transfer without reason and cancel the lease. This change would place even more power in the hands of landlords to raise the price of rent for new renters. Lease transfers are one of the few ways tenants can assure the affordability of their rent.

We are experiencing a major housing affordability crisis, and with Bill 31 the CAQ is only throwing fuel on the fire. Listed rents in Montreal increased by 6.8% for a 1-bedroom apartment and 8.1% for a 2-bedroom, according to the June 2023 rentals.ca rent report. This far outstrips wage increases in the educational sector, or increases in graduate stipends—which have stagnated at the federal level as well as in many departments at McGill. Graduate students are a population that move apartments and cities frequently, and rent is becoming an unmanageable expense for many of us.


What can we do? Québec Solidaire has launched an online petition to demand the government back down from its intentions to block lease transfers. Also, keep your eyes peeled for mobilizations against the bill this summer, like the manifestation on Thursday, June 22 organized by RCLALQ Droit Au Logement, and consider joining your local tenants’ union to build collective power!

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