AGSEM Newsletter - October 2021

Updated: Nov 9


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Events coming up on November 9, 2021! 1- Presentation and Talk on November 9th (4:30 to 5:30 pm) (online): On November 9th, 2021 from 4:30 to 5:30 pm, Bipin Kumar from the University of New Brunswick Graduate Student Association will be presenting on 'Comprehensive Comparison on Graduate Funding patterns in Canada - 2020-21'. He has been an active advocate for fair graduate student and labor policies, and is currently the Deputy Chairperson of the National Graduate Caucus as well as the International Student representative on the National Executive of the Canadian Federation of Students. A 30 minute presentation will be followed by a Q and A session. All union members are welcome to attend! To attend, please RSVP for the November 9th DC meeting that follows and you will receive the link that will be the same join this Talk. Hope to see you all there! 2- Delegates’ Training (5:30 to 6:00 pm): All AGSEM union delegates are welcome to attend this delegate training session where you will have the opportunity to learn more about your roles and responsibility as delegates. Please remember that all delegates are expected to attend this delegate training session at least once a year. Only a few sessions are offered during the year. You need to RSVP to the delegate meeting happening right after if you want to attend. 3- Delegates’ Council Meeting (6:00 pm): A regular delegates’ council meeting will happen on November 9th, 2021 but exceptionally, a mid-year financial report of the union will be presented at the meeting so all members are welcome to attend if they are interested. You need to RSVP if you want to attend. Coming back on our last General Assembly On September 29th, we held a general assembly when a new TA grievance officer was elected. Congratulations to Jean-Philip Mathieu. Once more, we would like to thank Jessica Rose, past TA grievance officer for all her hard work and dedication in the union in the past years. On the same day, an Invigilator unit assembly was also held where Andrea Hazewoold was elated as member of the invigilator bargaining committee, congratulations to her as well. In Follow up to our general assembly, an open letter was written and sent to the McGill higher administration to voice your concerns and requested a vote at this general assembly. Thank you to all for your participation! Survey: The Conseil Central du Montréal Métropolitain–CSN (CCMM–CSN)’s Action Plan Against Racism 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 labor 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. Invigilators Negotiation Update: AGSEM and McGill began negotiations for a new Collective Agreement in March 2021. The Invigilator Bargaining Committee went to the table five times since the start of the Fall semester. The Union and the Employer reached an agreement in principle on Article 8: Grievances and Arbitration at the beginning of September. The Union achieved its most significant mandates, including ensuring everyone has the right to attend their grievance meetings and be represented by the Union at any grievance hearing, if they so choose. We also achieved the right to file a grievance in either English or French, and only include the name of the griever where applicable. Additionally, the requirement to inform the supervisor about a grievance before filing has been removed with the understanding that both parties will try to proactively solve issues before initiating a grievance process, if applicable. The remaining negotiation sessions have centered around Article 9: Disciplinary Measures. The Employer and the Union remain very far apart on the issue of discipline. One of the principle 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 emphasized 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 also achieved a significant mandate in Article 10 by ensuring that the Employment file will be kept confidential at all times. Negotiations have begun on Articles 16 and 17, Health and Safety, and Leaves, respectively. The Union’s proposal to address the issue of unsanitary working conditions for invigilators is to establish a joint committee to specifically address invigilators’ health and safety concerns. We will receive the Employer’s counter-proposal on Articles 16 and 17 on Tuesday, November 9. 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. 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. In August 2021, PGSS and AGSEM conducted another 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 highlights of the updated August survey. Please feel free to use the feedback form on the AGSEM website for any comments. AGSEM’s letter to McGill upper administration - Concrete results for you! In response to the concerns expressed by graduate students in the April survey, 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. We reiterated our demands again on July 20, 2021. In the letter, AGSEM has presented the survey results and put forward specific requests with regard to the following issues:

  • Since it was not a guarantee that the entire undergraduate population will be fully vaccinated by September given the international portfolio of students at McGill which have meant to be the reality, AGSEM demanded making masks mandatory in indoor classrooms and offices, if in-person classes are held, for the safety of all graduate student employees. We are happy that it is currently in place! 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. McGill indicated to the union that they are open to single accommodations for TAs but want to leave the decision to the employers so if you need assistance requesting an accommodation or if you are not able to be accommodated, please feel free to contact the union and we will be happy to assist you in your requests to the employer.

  • 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. So far, we have heard that some departments are experiencing a decrease in the number of hours in TA contracts without necessarily decreasing the tasks requested to be completed by the TA. If it is the case, feel free to contact us at any time in order to prevent you working more hours than what is written in your contacts.


  • 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. Our priority is that all members of the union work in a safe environment. If you are not feeling safe because of the sanitary conditions, if the sanitary measures are not followed by individuals around you or if you refused a contract because of the sanitary conditions put in place by McGill, feel free to contact us and we will be happy to help you.

The union is currently asking McGill to give the choice to TAs for working online or in-person when it is possible so if you are not happy with the situation you have been offered for your TA position in Fall 2021, please contact the union and we will see how we can help you! Launch of the Voluntary COVID-19 Rapid Testing pilot project on campus A message from Francis Desjardins, CRIA, Director, Labour and Employee Relations, McGill University: We are pleased to announce a new pilot project to further enhance the health and safety of our campuses. As of November 8, any student, faculty or staff member will be able to receive a rapid COVID-19 antigen detection test on campus, using the Panbio antigen test, which employs nasopharyngeal swabs. This pilot project builds on a similar initiative undertaken previously at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre as part of a study associated with the MSSS initiative to reduce the risk of outbreaks in workplaces. The testing is open to asymptomatic individuals of our community and is entirely voluntary. At the start of the project, we anticipate having the capacity to conduct approximately four to eight tests per 20-minute period. 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. Participants will also be required to read documentation and sign a consent form prior to administering the test. By signing this form, participants agree to get a confirmatory (PCR) test from an authorized testing site and to self-isolate following any positive result from the rapid antigen tests, as well as to report any confirmed positive tests to McGill’s Case Management Group. This pilot project will also help assess the scalability of rapid testing on campus, should we need to expand it in the future. This initiative will be communicated to the community-at-large as part of an MRO this week, and a landing page on McGill’s Coronavirus website will provide the information contained in this e-mail as well as additional information including a schedule of the testing locations and times. 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 is currently looking to make 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. Last July, 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 but be prepared because we will go to a vote soon. Please email us at udrive@agsem-aeedem.ca if you have any comments or questions. 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. Previous Solidarity Initiatives 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 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. 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 3 current priorities and developing related Information Campaigns for the following initiatives:

  1. Workday Issues

  2. Solidarity Motions of Support

  3. 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