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AGSEM's update on negotiations, strike, and TA working conditions with regard to the mass email sent by McGill HR on April 5, 2024

Updated: Apr 9

April 7, 2024


McGill’s latest email is their first public statement on negotiations. We have been publishing detailed newsletters on bargaining since September, and we encourage all curious about bargaining to consult them here. 

We all know that McGill is a top school in Canada, and frames itself that way when recruiting students. It pays high level admins salaries competitive with schools like University of Toronto and University of British Columbia. But when it comes to paying TAs, McGill suddenly only cares about the Québec market. 

McGill’s latest wage offer of 14.5% over four years does not catch us up to these top schools, nor does it fully address recent record inflation or skyrocketing cost of living. And this offer has not been on the table for long.

McGill’s first offer was 5.25% over five years. As we have pointed out many times, given inflation, this amounts to an effective pay cut in terms of real wages. McGill’s latest offer before the strike vote was 6% over four years. After the strike vote, it went up to 10.5% over four years. It was only this past Tuesday, after a week of striking, that McGill’s offer went up to 14.5% over four years.

McGill has consistently ignored our other demands, refusing to negotiate on healthcare, and suggesting that TA hours being cut is not a problem.

Legal actions against McGill University’s use of scabs

AGSEM is engaged in ongoing legal proceedings at the Tribunal administratif du travail (Quebec’s labour tribunal) in order to prevent McGill University from using professors, course lecturers and other university employees as replacement workers (scabs) to fill in for striking teaching assistants.

On April 4th 2024, the Tribunal administratif du travail rejected our demand for a safeguard order.

As the tribunal specified, the April 4th decision strictly addresses an emergency order and does not reject our upcoming legal actions to obtain an injunction that would keep McGill University from using scabs to replace TAs. We are set to obtain a tribunal hearing date later this spring. 

Numerous students, TAs and professors have reached out to the union since April 5, expressing that McGill HR’s email felt misleading. We share your concerns and we encourage you to reach out to us at any time you have questions about the union’s legal actions.

AGSEM has been thoroughly documenting the ongoing scab work organized at McGill University every day since March 25th 2024. We are ready to go forward with legal actions on this matter and we intend to defend our members against the illegal replacement of their labor by scabs. 

TA hours

AGSEM is not just fighting for a wage increase, we’re also fighting for protections of transgender TAs and addressing the problem of TA hours being cut. Many departments have cut the total number of TA hours in recent years. This has a number of consequences. First, it negatively affects the quality of education for students at McGill. Second, it reduces teaching support for professors. Third, it leaves Teaching Assistants vulnerable to overwork. While the Collective Agreement has a mechanism to address the third of these issues, by allowing course supervisors to request more hours if TAs have worked over their contract, in practice, such requests are routinely denied.

Many TAs face implicit pressures to work over their hours. McGill’s suggestion that TA overwork is not a problem because of the existence of this one mechanism (11.04) just emphasizes how out of touch they are with the work conditions of TAs.

Employee email addresses

McGill refuses to acknowledge that by locking TAs (all of whom are graduate students) out of their email addresses, TAs are currently losing access to their OneDrive documents that are crucial for coursework and research (including conference papers, grant applications, and other types of documentation related to professional opportunities).

By not being able to log into Workday, TAs also cannot check the status of the hiring process for summer casual and external positions. 

We have presented HR with rich evidence of the scope of the problem, yet—despite their initial attempt to collaborate on this issue with IT—on April 3, HR completely reversed their position and informed AGSEM that they would not unfreeze employee accounts until the end of the TA strike. Apparently McGill is so dedicated to punishing TAs for going on strike that they are willing to jeopardize the academic and professional progress of their own graduate students.

TA work is essential to the functioning of McGill yet they have consistently refused to take us seriously and instead, have decided to turn the strike against the most vulnerable people. McGill is investing a lot of energy into trying to undermine the TA strike, through endless fear-mongering emails, firing TAs from their other jobs, locking them out of their emails, and generally trying to discredit the demands of TAs.

Meanwhile, we are still waiting on McGill to confirm the next date for negotiations. We hope that McGill will begin to channel their energy into negotiations, and give TAs a deal that could end a strike.

AGSEM TA Strike Committee and Executive Committee


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