On Wednesday, November 16, the Post-Graduate Students Society (PGSS) met for its monthly Council meeting. Councilors passed two motions, one regarding support for the Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE) bargaining priorities, and another to create the PGSS Member Services Committee. Council also heard several presentations, as well as executive reports.
Provost to Council
Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi came to Council and made himself available to questions from any graduate students.
“Could you speak a bit about the recent course lecturers’ union and collective agreement that the University entered […], particularly the exclusion rate, or percentage of courses that can be excluded, and for those who are concerned about graduate students having an opportunity to teach their own course?” asked PGSS Academic Affairs Officer Nicholas Dunn.
A year ago, course lecturers at McGill unionized to form the McGill Course Lecturers and Instructors Union (MCLIU). Their collective agreement included clauses regarding the posting of teaching opportunities as course lecturers, as well as a point system to determine seniority amongst lecturers.
More importantly, it also included a “reserve clause,” which gave the University the right to assign up to 15 per cent of the courses taught by course lecturers to individuals and bypass the traditional posting and seniority rules. Those postings could go either to graduate students, professionals, or other academics.
“The way we did it this year,” answered Manfredi, “it is that we asked [McGill faculty deans] to give us an estimate of how many of those exclusions they needed. Not [surprisingly], the number they asked for exceeded the number that we had available, so we had to make some decisions about how to allocate [those posts].”
Manfredi acknowledged the collective agreement was still in its first year, and required fine tuning, but said that this is normal, and his office had been in contact with McGill faculty deans to revise certain parts of the agreement in the coming year.
DPSLL speaks to Council
Deputy Provost, Student Life and Learning (DPSLL) Ollivier Dyens also came to Council, where he presented last year’s (Fiscal Year 2016) finalized budget with official numbers.
Dyens explained various parts of the budget to Council, including the expected 1.5 per cent rise in tuition for students, which is a standard part of his presentation, but also discussed the sales and services portion of the budget.
“Last year, there was a lot of talk that we cut student services,” said Dyens, “and we have not cut [any]. The [sales and services] budget has actually increased, albeit not as much as we would like to see.”
“Salaries are increasing,” he continued, “a little because we’re hiring more people, but mostly because we have a salary policy at the University, and the University is committed to increasing salaries by a certain amount [as a result of collective agreements].”
Dyens spent extra time discussing the University’s ‘overhead’ budget, which has caused some controversy in past years: it was a major issue during the 2012 Quebec student protests, when the province saw extensive cuts across universities.
Overhead charges essentially mean the University bills student-fee funded units for central administrative services, which are automatically provided through the operating budget.
The University has justified this in the past by saying that they cannot pay for these administrative services themselves without it “affecting other services,” like social or health services.
Currently, the University charges approximately half a million dollars in overhead fees to McGill students; it was originally projected that these charges would constitute five per cent of the University’s yearly budget.
“Five per cent for overhead isn’t a huge amount,” argued Dyens. “Another university will charge ten per cent, 15 per cent. […] It’s not great news, but it’s not excessive either.”
“The good thing here is that [this year] it only went from three to four per cent,” he continued, “and the projection [was] that overhead would go to five per cent next year, but it seems that things are getting better.”
PGSS support for AMUSE
AMUSE has been engaged in bargaining with the administration for a new collective agreement since November 10. After having gone on strike from October 29 to November 2, a motion was brought forward for PGSS to support AMUSE’s bargaining priorities, which include priority hiring for jobs employees have already undertaken, accurate job descriptions, seniority and benefits for casual workers, and a $15 minimum wage.
“We urge the administration to conclude an agreement with AMUSE in an equitable manner consistent with their demands,” the motion reads. “We support the union’s efforts to achieve a living wage and to receive respect in line with their immense contributions to the university.”
The motion passed unanimously.
A previous version of this article stated that Provost Manfredi has been in contact with MCLIU regarding exemptions in the reserve clause. In fact, he’s been in contact with McGill faculty deans. The Daily regrets the error.
A previous version of this article also said that Manfredi had been in contact with MCLIU to revise certain parts of the agreement in the coming year. In fact, he’s been in contact with McGill faculty deans. The Daily regrets the error.