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Teaching Assistants

It is difficult to overstate the important educational role that Teaching Assistants have at McGill. TAs assist course instructors with tasks such as grading; holding office hours; leading conferences, labs, and tutorials; and managing assignments. All TAs at McGill are members of AGSEM, the teaching support union.

By definition, a Teaching Assistant is a graduate student enrolled at McGill. But a Teaching Assistant is also a worker. Being a TA can greatly enhance your expertise as a researcher and provide meaningful experience for your career, but when you TA at McGill, you are a worker and are compensated with wages, not funding.

All Teaching Assistants are protected by a Collective Agreement. The Collective Agreement is a contract between AGSEM and McGill that outlines your terms of employment. These hard-fought rights include fair and transparent hiring practices, hiring priority, a standard wage that increases with inflation, unpaid leaves of absence, protections against workplace harassment and discrimination, a grievance procedure, and paid training.

When you receive your offer of employment, you should also receive an AGSEM membership form and, if you receive your offer by email, an electronic copy of the Teaching Assistant Collective Agreement. If you did not receive either of these documents, or if you feel that your rights are not being respected, contact the TA Grievance Officer.

Remember to sign your AGSEM membership form for full membership rights. You must sign your membership form every time you start a new contract as a Teaching Assistant. You can fill out your online membership form here (preferred), submit your signed form to your Hiring Unit (employer), email the form to us, or drop it off at our office at 3641 rue University, suite 207, second floor (Please note that our office is unfortunately not wheelchair accessible).

Below, you will find a brief history of AGSEM, a summary of the TA Collective Agreement in FAQ form, and our tips for improving your TA experience.

Until July 31, 2023

Fill out the online form for full AGSEM Membership Rights

The TA Collective Agreement Demystified

FAQ, Consult a Grievance Officer, or File a Grievance

AGSEM, A (brief) History

In 1974, the McGill Teaching Assistant Association (MTAA) was founded by McGill graduate students. While it was not legally certified as a Labour Union, the MTAA's activists, with very serious concerns, succeeded in forcing McGill to begin negotiating.

In 1976 MTAA held an 8 day illegal strike and temporarily won major concessions from McGill: a base pay rate for all TAs, cost of living increases and a maximum 12-hour workweek. All of this occurred nearly three decades before and other TA union was founded in Québec, and set basic standards other Universities were forced to live up to. Also among the first demands were efforts that would improve undergraduate education, with TA training and a lower TA-to-student ratio.

agsem a history

Despite major victories, the MTAA faced a number of challenges, particularly as McGill would frequently go back on deals to which it had previously agreed. In the 1980s, graduate student activists, concerned about the situation faced by Teaching Assistants, began discussions about legal certification as a union, partly as a response to changing labour law in Québec. After conducting a survey of TA working conditions and producing a report, the Post Graduate Students' Society (PGSS) established the Teaching Assistants' Organizing Committee (TAOC), to conduct the difficult work of unionizing TAs.

In 1992, the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill was founded by the TAOC, and it began a card-signing campaign to become certified with the CSN (a major labour union federation in Québec). In 1993, the campaign succeeded, and AGSEM began negotiations for its first collective bargaining agreement as a certified union.

With unionized TAs outside of Québec setting labour standards much higher than those at McGill, McGill's offers did not meet AGSEM's demands. After three years of no progress, in 1996, AGSEM held the second strike of teaching assistants in Québec—this time, as a legally accredited union. While a first contract was only finally reached in 1998, the strike set a very important precedent. The first Collective Agreement addressed limits to workload and helped bring TAs salary parity—the lowest pay rate at the time was $7 for Anatomy TAs, while the highest-paid Arts TAs made $18.13.

Negotiations for the second contract, in the early 2000s, went relatively quickly. For the third contract in 2007, TAs raised concerns about working more hours than they were being paid, and that salaries had lagged far behind those of TAs at universities in Ottawa and Toronto. A very difficult two-month strike in 2008, while not accomplishing everything, won very important rights for TAs, including a significant pay increase and the workload form. The most significant progress of the fourth Collective Agreement, signed in 2014, was paid training for TAs and a recognition that no TAship should be less than 45 hours under normal circumstances.

As the name indicates, "AGSEM" was originally intended to represent all graduate students who work at McGill. In April 2010, an important step forward was taken when AGSEM successfully unionized nearly a thousand exam invigilators as AGSEM Unit 2. A year and a half later, in August 2011, Course Lecturers and Instructors were Unionized as AGSEM Unit 3—after two decades of failed attempts. Course lecturers have since separated into the McGill Course Lecturers and Instructors Union (MCLIU)Today AGSEM represents over 2000 employees at McGill University.

As of January 2021, AGSEM has a new TA Collective Agreement. Almost three years prior to that, during the General Assembly on April 16, 2018, the membership gave the BC a list of priority mandates to improve the previous contract. These mandates specified overwork, job security, policies on sexual harassment, and wage increases as the major areas that continue to be in need of improvement.

ta faq

Teaching Assistant Membership Form

Remember to sign your AGSEM membership form for full membership rights. You must sign your membership form every time you start a new contract as a Teaching Assistant.


  • For "Employee Number" / "Numéro employé" please provide your McGill ID number

  • For "Personal email" / "Courriel personnel" please provide your non-McGill email address

TA membership form

Contact the TA Bargaining Committee

If you have any comments, suggestions, or concerns about any part of the TA Bargaining process, feel free to contact the TA Bargaining Chair in the form below.

Thanks! Message sent.

Who is in charge at AGSEM?

You are. Being an active member is the most important form of involvement with the Union. Inform your Delegate(s) of issues in your department, attend events and ask questions, select your Delegate(s) in your department, make sure that your student union (PGSA) is involved when you resolve problems in your department, and attend General and Unit Assemblies.

How can I get involved with AGSEM?

  • Organize! Your colleagues are often your best resource for improving your teaching. You have the support of AGSEM when it comes to improving the local conditions for TAs in your department. Get supplies and money for food and drinks for your departmental event. Want to create a caucus to address issues particular to your identity? Want to organize an inter-departmental workshop to develop pedagogical methods across fields? What to host a conference on the precarious PhD? AGSEM is so down. Contact your Mobilization Officer!

  • Become a Delegate: Small departments may elect one Delegate. Large departments may elect two Delegates. Departments with 100 or more members may elect three Delegates. Delegates are typically elected by your PGSA, although if your department does not have a Delegate, you may be appointed by AGSEM.

  • Join a Committee: Any member may join a committee that speaks to their skills and interests. They can also propose a new committee. Committees work to improve the Union as well as to provide oversight and are a crucial part of union democracy.

  • Run for the Executive Committee: Current executive positions include: President (must be bilingual), TA Grievance Officer, Invigilator Grievance Officer, Mobilization Officer, External Communications Officer, Secretary-Treasurer, and, during bargaining year, Chair of the Bargaining Committee. All positions are elected each year and execs are paid a stipend equivalent to a 120-180-hour TA position each term (or 90 hours for Bargaining Chair).

Attend a General Assembly
Join a Committee
Become a Delegate
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