Hi Invigilators and TAs,
We hope your semester is going well! Boy howdy do we have some news for you! Come to our General Assembly this Thursday, November 16 to get more updates in person, and celebrate the end of the semester with the Invigilator Assembly and social on December 14. In October, we celebrated AGSEM’s 30th Anniversary with a gala and ongoing digital and physical archival displays, and the Delegates’ Council took several important positions on Palestine, against tuition increases, and in solidarity with the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) at Simon Fraser University (SFU).
Read on for a summary of this news, as well as a reminder of important rights such as short-term leaves for TAs—no, you do not have to pay for your replacement!—and applying for jobs, and getting paid for every hour you work as a TA or invigilator.
AGSEM Membership Form Audit
With the rollout of our new database, we are doing an audit of our TA and invigilator membership forms. If we are missing your form, you may hear from an AGSEM member via call, text, or email in the coming weeks. If you haven’t signed your membership form this semester, you can do it online—it only takes 2 minutes! Remember to sign a membership form each semester you work!
In the meantime, if you have any questions, concerns, or comments, please contact us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your Executive, Bargaining, and Mobilization Committees
Our very own Kim G. modeling the shirt she designed!!
Events and Assemblies
AGSEM General Assembly - November 16
Invigilator Assembly and Holiday Party - December 14
Happy 30th Birthday, AGSEM!
TA Negotiations Continue!
AGSEM Delegates’ Council in Solidarity with Palestine and the SPHR, stands with our members and against discrimination in all its forms
AGSEM DC in Solidarity with the TSSU
AGSEM DC Against Tuition Hikes
Short-Term TA Leave: No, you do not have to pay for your replacement!
Job Postings: Internal Candidate Blues
TAs: No More Free Hours! Track Your Hours!
Invigilators: Paid Breaks
In the Community
SSMU Survey on Food Insecurity
PGSS Graduate Funding Survey Results
Events and Assemblies
1. AGSEM General Assembly - November 16
Join us Thursday, November 16 at 5:30pm downtown, at Mac campus, or online for our annual General Assembly. Please RSVP—the meeting locations and Zoom link will only be sent to those who RSVP in advance. Wear your “United we Bargain, Divided we Beg” AGSEM t-shirt, or get one at the assembly if you don’t have one yet!
How do we want compensation and honoraria in our union to look like going forward? This is your opportunity to have a say in the way our union structures our finances!
Should the union continue to have a mask mandate for assemblies and events? How do we continue to take care of one another in the context of our collective?
Should our union take a position in the ongoing fight for dignity and self-determination of the Kahnistensera, also known as the Mohawk Mothers, over their battle in the development of the former Royal Victoria Hospital site?
Come discuss these issues with us, or submit any topics or motions for discussion to email@example.com at least 24 hours before the meeting.
As always, dinner will be provided for AGSEM members. Make sure you have signed your membership form in the past 12 months!
2. Invigilator Assembly and Holiday Party - December 14
Do you currently work as an invigilator or have you worked as an invigilator in the past 12 months? Join us on Thursday, December 14 from 5:30pm for our annual invigilator assembly. As always, the modality of the assembly will be hybrid. Following the short assembly, we will have a little holiday party to celebrate the end of the Fall semester. Dinner will be served during the assembly, with other refreshments to follow during the party. Make sure you have signed your membership form and don’t forget to RSVP!
AGSEM Delegates' Council and Executive Committee at the 30th Anniversary Gala in the Thomson House Ballroom on October 25.
1. Happy 30th Birthday, AGSEM!
On October 25, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the certification of AGSEM as the union representing McGill’s graduate TAs with a gala at Thomson House. It was a fun and inspiring night, featuring speeches from current AGSEM activists, as well as from Michael Temelini and Tamara Myers—two key founders of our union. We were also honoured by representatives of our three affiliates, Caroline Senneville, President of the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), Christine Gauthier, Vice President of the University Group of the Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec (FNEEQ), and Dominique Daigneault, President of the Conseil central de Montréal métropolitain (CCMM-CSN).
AGSEM Executive Committee with Caroline Senneville, President of the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), Christine Gauthier, Vice President of the University Group of the Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec (FNEEQ), and Dominique Daigneault, President of the Conseil central de Montréal métropolitain (CCMM-CSN), as well as Bertrand Guibord (CCMM-CSN), our union advisor Sébastien Boisvert (FNEEQ-CSN), and Raad Jassim of the McGill Course Lecturers and Instructors Union (MCLIU).
The gala on October 25 followed the opening of our archival exhibition, From the AGSEM Archives: 30 Years of Graduate Student Labour Organizing at McGill. Did you know that there have actually been closer to 50 years of graduate student labour organizing at our university? What about the fact that the ambitious first collective agreement of Teaching Assistants took 1,400 days to negotiate with McGill?! Are you aware of our union’s role in unionizing different groups of employees on campus, including invigilators and course lecturers?
Learn all about the history of our union with our five displays spread over the Arts Building, Arts West, Leacock, and Education. A digital version of the exhibition is available on our website.
On Tuesday, November 21 from 4-5pm, your Mobilization Officer, Kiersten, will be giving another guided walking tour of the physical displays. This will be followed by a 5 à 7 at Thomson House. This would be a great time to get your AGSEM bargaining t-shirt if you don’t have one! RSVP.
AGSEM Mobilization Officer, Kiersten van Vliet, giving a guided tour of the AGSEM historical exhibition.
2. TA Negotiations Continue!
Since mid-September, the TA Bargaining Committee has met with the employer three times. At the first session on September 21, the BC and McGill exchanged non-monetary proposals. Over 30 TAs lined the hallways in support of the committee as they entered the negotiation room (read The Tribune’s coverage). On October 19, negotiations began in earnest, with the relatively easy articles related to intellectual property, labour relations, and university governance (read The Tribune’s coverage).
The third negotiation session took place on November 9 led to the discussion of articles with which there was greater divergence. Based on a strong mandate from the TA assembly, our proposal is to introduce language in the Collective Agreement that will ensure students are neither prohibited nor discouraged by their supervisors from applying for TA positions. From the union’s perspective, this practice undermines employees’ priority pool rights, and highlights the way the employer continues to conflate TA employment with graduate funding.
One TA from Anthropology had the following to say: “Supervisors’ and administrators’ informal emails demanding that students not apply for TA positions create a climate of intimidation and can induce a fear of professional retaliation, as graduate students rely on their supervisors for references for job and grant applications. Moreover, the concerned students’ external funding amounts to an annual revenue that is still under Montreal’s poverty line. In essence, faculty and staff are requesting students live in poverty to make up for their own mismanagement of departmental resources.”
AGSEM will be returning to the negotiation table on November 14, 22, 28, and December 5. Want to attend a future session of negotiations, in-person or remotely? Please fill out this form to indicate on which dates you’re available and which topics interest you, and we’ll keep in touch.
AGSEM TA Bargaining Committee of Nada El Baba, Nick Vieira, and Dallas Jokic with their Very Serious negotiation faces photobombed by Mobilization Officer Kiersten van Vliet holding a "Mot du Jour: Honneur" (Word of the day: Honour) sign.
3. AGSEM Delegates’ Council in Solidarity with Palestine and the SPHR, stands with our members and against discrimination in all its forms
On October 18, the Delegates’ Council approved two separate motions related to the recent violence in Israel and ongoing escalation of violence in Palestine, and the employer’s response on October 10 to the student-run club Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) McGill. The motions can be read here.
At this moment more than ever, we must be careful with our words and judicious with our actions. Antisemitic, anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, and white supremacist incidents are on the rise worldwide and have led to violence committed against individuals on the basis of their race, nationality, or religion. The DC condemns Islamophobic, antisemitic, and anti-Palestinian sentiments and stands with the Muslim, Jewish, and Palestinian members of AGSEM.
4. AGSEM DC in Solidarity with the TSSU
At their October 18 meeting, the Delegates’ Council voted unanimously to extend solidarity with the striking workers of the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) at Simon Fraser University (SFU), who had been on strike since September 28 over stalled monetary negotiations. The TSSU is the independent union representing TAs, TMs, SIs, ELC/ITP, GFs, and RAs at SFU at all three campuses in the Greater Vancouver area. The DC approved a symbolic $250 CAD contribution to the strike fund of the TSSU from the AGSEM Mutual Aid Fund.
The following day, on October 19, the negotiation team of the TSSU reached a tentative agreement with the employer, and strike activity has currently ceased until members of the union can vote whether to accept the agreement. Congratulations to the TSSU negotiation team for reaching a hard-fought tentative agreement, and good luck with your ongoing effort to unionize SFU research assistants. Solidarity!
5. AGSEM DC Against Tuition Hikes
Our Delegates’ Council also voted unanimously on October 18 against the plan proposed by the Quebec government to increase tuition for out-of-province undergraduate and non-research based graduate students studying at English universities. As McGill has outlined in their November 2 MRO to the McGill Community, the proposed changes to out-of-province and international tuition would be devastating for several programs at our institution, including the Schulich School of Music, as well as the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the Faculty of Education and the B.A. & Sc. interfaculty programs. AGSEM unequivocally stands for affordable education for all. As our affiliate, the Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec (FNEEQ–CSN) says, students are not ATMs!
1. Short-Term TA Leave: No, you do not have to pay for your replacement!
We have received feedback from TAs in several departments that it is common practice to have TAs pay for their replacements in case of illness. This is a violation of your rights.
As stated in Article 11.03 of our Collective Agreement: “The University shall not require an Employee to reimburse or to carry forward to another term any hours not worked in the appointment.”
This includes short-term leaves of absence like missing a conference or lab—you do not need to pay for your replacement out of your pocket! Either your workload is adjusted with another TA (maybe you pick up their section or some of their grading to make up the difference), or your department has to come up with the additional hours to pay your replacement.
Additionally, if you do not work all the hours in your contract by the end of the semester, you don’t have to pay back the difference! It is the responsibility of your department to accurately estimate the hours of each TA position, and approve more hours as necessary.
If your department or supervisor has been having you pay for your replacement, contact your TA grievance officer JP at firstname.lastname@example.org asap!
2. Job Postings: Internal Candidate Blues
Most TA job postings for the Winter 2024 are now live on Workday. If you have difficulty applying as an internal candidate, we recommend applying as an external candidate and informing the administrator for your department. We have received feedback from several members who cannot apply as internal candidates due to an apparent glitch in the HR system.
As a reminder, you have the right to apply to work as an Invigilator or TA in multiple departments. In fact, this can increase your chances to get a job!
If you have any questions or other difficulties applying for a job, contact JP or Teresa, your Grievance Officers: www.agsem.ca/grievance.
3. No More Free Hours! Track Your Hours!
Are you working as a TA this semester? Have you been counting your hours? If not, there’s no better time to start than now!
Have you met with your course supervisor to revise your Workload Form? You can revise the form as many times as you need until it accurately reflects the hours you work!
Does answering student emails or grading labs / papers take twice as long as initially budgeted? This should be updated on a revised Workload form!
Does your supervisor need to request more hours from the department to ensure you both have enough resources to finish the work for that course? There is a spot on the Workload form where they can do that!
Keep in mind:
You have the right to refuse any work that would exceed the hours indicated in your contract.
You have the right to refuse to work additional hours that are approved by your department. However, any additional hours must be offered to you as a TA before it may be offered to a grader or other non-unionized academic support worker.
Any additional work must be paid at the TA rate ($33.03 per hour).
Contracts may exceed 180 hours upon an agreement with the department, TA, union, and McGill HR.
Your Workload form can be revised as many times as necessary to accurately reflect the time you spend working as a TA. Your work includes required readings, class, and lab prep, office hours, class hours, meetings with your supervisor or fellow TAs, proctoring exams, grading, and required training.
Bottom line, you probably work more than you think. And, legally, you need to be paid for every hour that you work. Your supervisor and your department will never know there’s a problem unless you track your hours and tell them.
If a conversation with your course supervisor about work would be difficult, if you never signed a Workload form, or if you have any other concerns about your working conditions, our union is here to help. Contact your TA grievance officer JP at email@example.com. All inquiries are kept strictly confidential and you will never be pressured to pursue a grievance.
4. Invigilators: Paid Breaks
One significant change of our new Invigilator Collective Agreement is an indemnity for untaken breaks. You already had the right to 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 have any questions about your job, email your Invigilator grievance officer Teresa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the Community
1. SSMU Survey on Food Insecurity
In this moment of skyrocketing food prices and with the lack of affordable food options on our campuses, the leadership of the Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU) has put together a survey to assess food insecurity of members in the McGill Community. They are encouraging all community members (students, staff, and academic faculty) to respond to the survey to best encompass a representative experience. Please be advised of the following content warnings: skipping meals, weight loss, food insecurity, financial insecurity. You can fill out the survey here.
2. PGSS Graduate Funding Survey Results
The results are in, and the funding landscape looks bleaker than ever for McGill’s graduate students. The 2022-2023 PGSS funding survey finds that 72% of McGill graduate students make less than a full-time minimum-wage worker, and 88% make less than a sustainable income. Despite McGill touting itself as a national leader in academics and research, graduate funding at our institution is falling further and further behind other universities in Canada.
What can we do? We need to organize. Several departments at McGill have successfully negotiated for stipend increases, and many more are in the process of getting organized around the issue of graduate funding. AGSEM’s Funding Working Group has compiled resources and developed strategies to help you advocate for graduate students in your department. Want to learn more? Contact us at email@example.com.