AGSEM Newsletter - November/December 2021

Updated: Jan 18


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AGSEM demands sent today to McGill higher administration due to the increase in COVID-19 cases

December 22, 2021

Dear Professor Manfredi,

In follow up to the letter that was sent to you on June 21, 2021, we would like to reiterate some of our requests based on the current sanitary condition in the province of Quebec.

After fluctuating for almost two years now, COVID-19 cases are again rising in Quebec and all over the world. Since McGill is already prepared to deliver most classes remotely, AGSEM would like to request , once again, that you opt for a precautionary approach by moving teaching activities to the fully or partially remote mode of delivery in Winter 2022.

Furthermore, for the safety of our members and the whole McGill community, Teaching Assistants should be given a choice to perform their tasks remotely if they feel safer doing so, whenever possible. We understand that the organizing of remote teaching activities can be challenging for many of us. Nevertheless, constantly moving–or fearing of moving–between different learning environments is even more challenging. This is especially the case given that many of our members already experience discomfort and anxiety in response to the high risk of COVID-19 contagion.

On behalf of AGSEM, once again, I request that you take those demands into serious consideration when any decisions are made in regards to in-person activities in the upcoming semester of Winter 2022.

Mario Roy

AGSEM President

We want to make sure that you are well represented!

At the General Assembly on January 27, 2021, the members of the Conseil Central du Montréal Métropolitain–CSN (CCMM–CSN) affiliated unions (including AGSEM) adopted an action plan against racism.

One of the objectives of the action plan is to ensure the representation of people from racialized, immigrant, and indigenous groups within the structures and bodies of the member unions in an equal proportion to their presence in the labour market.

In this context, the CCMM–CSN wants to produce a portrait (or mapping) of the situation in its affiliated unions (including AGSEM).

Your participation in the survey is therefore very important.

Please fill out the anonymous survey prepared by the CCMM-CSN in English or in French to help the implementation of the action plan.

Thank you in advance for your participation. This study is quintessential to help the CCMM-CSN understand the current situation.

Starting a job as a Teaching Assistant this winter semester?

Make sure you know your rights!

Click here to read more about the TA Collective Agreement in FAQ form, and our tips for improving your TA experience.

AGSEM introduces online membership forms for Teaching Assistants and Invigilators

We are happy to announce that starting December 2021 AGSEM members can fill out their membership forms online. To fill out your form, please click here.

While we encourage everyone to use the new online system, please be assured that we still accept paper membership forms (sent to our office at 3641 rue University, suite 207), as well as the PDF format sent to us via email.

The FNEEQ (Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec) Special general meeting

Between December 1-3, AGSEM president Marion Roy, and AGSEM TA Grievance Officer Jean-Philip Mathieu represented our union in Trois-Rivières at the special general meeting of our affiliate union, FNEEQ-CSN. During the meeting, they have been able to discuss solidarity actions about some of the CSN-affiliate unions currently on strike and debate on subjects that affect you as a member of the union such as academic freedom and government support for education.

To learn more about FNEEQ, visit: https://fneeq.qc.ca/fr/ (French only).

Invigilators

Negotiation Update:

As of November 25, 2021, the Invigilator Bargaining Committee and the Employer have met fifteen times since the start of negotiations in March. We have reached agreements in principle on Articles 1-4, 6, 8-10, 16, 17, aside from a few discussions that have been suspended until monetary negotiations (at the end of negotiations). We will start negotiations on Article 15, Probationary Period in the new year. A more detailed description of the course of negotiations is available in past editions of the AGSEM monthly newsletter, and a description of the Bargaining Committee’s mandate is available on the AGSEM website. We have outlined several important developments in negotiations below.

The Employer and the Union remain very far apart on the issue of discipline. One of the principal demands of the employer is to increase the time an invigilator must respect in order to cancel a shift to 3 business days from 2 hours in 9.08. The Union recognizes that so-called “no shows” are a significant issue for the working conditions of the invigilators who do show up to work, but has emphasised that the Employer’s punitive demand will not solve this issue. In Winter 2020, the Union signed a letter of agreement with the Office for Students with Disabilities to increase the time an invigilator must respect in order to cancel a shift to 12:00pm noon the business day before a scheduled shift. Before the semester was interrupted by the pandemic, there were labour shortages in the Hiring Unit as a result of this Letter of Agreement and invigilators were bringing concerns to the Union about the punitive application of this agreement.

The Union raised these concerns in the negotiations and the Employer assured us that they would take this into account. The Employer returned to the table with the same proposal that did not address any of the Union’s concerns. Given the current distance between the two parties on interpretation, the Union proposed delaying further discussion on 9.08 until we receive the Employer’s monetary offer at the end of the non-monetary negotiations. The Union remains open to finding proactive solutions to the issue of no-shows.

A significant mandate for the union in Article 9 was establishing a fair disciplinary process with progressive steps of disciplinary action. Again, the Employer and the Union were far apart on the interpretation of the steps of progressive discipline. The Employer does not acknowledge verbal warning as a measure of discipline, while the Union does. Still, we partially achieved our mandate by adding verbal warning as a measure that may be taken by a Supervisor before initiating a disciplinary action.

The Union and the Employer are also far apart on the issue of Health and Safety. McGill is not willing to establish a committee to discuss the specific health and safety needs of Invigilators. Despite evidence to the contrary provided by the Union, the Employer maintains that their current measures to maintain cleanliness in the working environment as well as the protocols to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are sufficient. Unable to sway the Employer on the issue, the Union decided to withdraw our proposal to create a committee and change tactics for addressing the issues of health and safety more directly. If you experience or have experienced unsanitary or unsafe working conditions this final exam session, please take a photo of the situation (if possible) and contact the Grievance Officer at grievance.2@agsem-aeedem.ca. Do not take photos of any confidential material or other people without their consent.

As soon as there are any major developments during the negotiation process—that is, an agreement in principle reached between the two parties, or an impasse in the negotiations—the AGSEM Executive Committee will call a Unit 2 Assembly. The decision whether or not to accept an Employer’s final offer and adopt that text as the new Invigilator Collective Agreement is subject to a democratic vote at a Unit Assembly.

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.

Voluntary COVID-19 Rapid Testing Now Available on Campus

As of November 8, McGill offers rapid COVID-19 antigen detection tests on campus.

Any student, faculty or staff member, including Teaching Assistants and Invigilators, will be able to receive a test.

Please note that the testing is open to asymptomatic individuals and is entirely voluntary. While the results will be shared with participants, they cannot be used as proof of a negative test result for travel or for any other purposes, and no paper or other form of results will be given to participants to walk away with.

To find about about the testing locations and times, visit: https://www.mcgill.ca/coronavirus/article/sante-et-securite/voluntary-covid-19-rapid-testing-asymptomatic-individuals-pilot-project

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!

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 made 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. In November, we received another 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.

Recent Solidarity Initiatives

  • AGSEM stands in solidarity with the trans, non-binary and intersex communities against the proposed changes in the Quebec Civil Code introduced in Bill 2 (An Act respecting family law reform with regard to filiation and amending the Civil Code of Québec in relation to personality rights and civil status).

On November 17, 2021, AGSEM’s Executive Council approved a motion to send a letter voicing our concerns with regards to Bill 2 to Mr André Bachand, the Chair of the Committee on Institution at the National Assembly of Quebec.

Please read the letter sent by the AGSEM president under this link.

  • AGSEM stands in solidarity with the UCU (Univeristy and College Union) in their fight for better working conditions for academic workers across the United Kingdom.

As of Dec 1, 2021, as many as 58 universities were preparing to go on strike in December after university representatives refused to withdraw pension cuts or address falling pay and worsening working conditions. Click here to read more.

  • Please sign the petition to support action against the REM de l’Est project in Montreal

Concerned about the negative effects for the neighbourhoods crossed by the aboveground REM de l'Est train line, the Collectif en environnement Mercier-Est is calling the government to "immediately suspend all work on the REM de l'Est, including its design,” "mandate the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM) to conduct an analysis of public transit needs in the east of Montreal,” and "hold a public consultation with citizens on the conclusions of this analysis and the examination of possible alternatives for implementing a mode of public transit adapted to a densely populated urban environment."(translation source)

Previous 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.

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

Working Group Update

On November 9th, 2021, the AGSEM Graduate Funding Working Group organized a talk by Mr. Bipin Kumar from the University of New Brunswick Graduate Student Association. He presented on 'Comprehensive Comparison on Graduate Funding patterns in Canada - 2020-21'. Bipin, who is an active advocate for fair graduate student and labor policies, informed union members about current graduate funding patterns and issues across Canadian Universities.

If you have any ideas for the International student, Mental health, and Graduate funding working groups, feel free to reach out to macdonald.officer@agsem-aeedem.ca

Mobilization Update

Invigilator Mobilization Campaign – Fall 2021 Final Exams

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

For updates on Invigilator Bargaining, see the “Invigilators” section of this Newsletter.

Unions. What do they give us?

Using archival material and interviews with renowned labor activists, sociologists and historians, the documentary "Les unions, qu'ossa donne?" revisits the major struggles led by the CTCC (CSN - Confédération des syndicats nationaux) from its founding in 1921 to the present day.

You can now watch the 2021 documentary "Les unions, qu'ossa donne?" about the history of trade unionizing in Quebec here for free (French only).

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. Progress of the Invigilator Bargaining Committee

  2. Workday Issues

  3. Solidarity Motions of Support

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