News  McGill rejects TAs’ demands

Graduate student union calls general meeting to mobilize


ccording to officials from the union representing McGill’s Teaching Assistants (TAs), the administration has refused most of the union’s demands in current contract negotiations.

While the administration has refused to comment about current collective bargaining, the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM) says that the administration has balked at the union’s five primary demands.

AGSEM is seeking increased TA hours, paid training for new TAs, the limiting of conference and lab sizes, mandatory meetings with course supervisors, and a three per cent pay increase.

According to the union, McGill administration bargainers, after consultation with Provost Anthony Masi, refused these five primary demands.

“McGill just said ‘no’ flatly to our main demands, with the exception of a very small and vague opening on training,” said the chair of AGSEM’s bargaining committee, Renaud Roussel, at a delegates meeting Wednesday night.

“They’re just willing basically to set up some kind of training…and we’re not sure that this training is going to be paid,” he said.

Molly Alexander, a union adviser from AGSEM’s parent union, the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, said that the offer rings hollow.

“‘We are willing to move on training’ was the wording, but they didn’t come back with any written proposal on it. In negotiations that doesn’t mean a whole lot,” she said. This is the eleventh meeting between AGSEM and the administration since May.

According to a member of AGSEM’s bargaining team, Jonathan Mooney, McGill has offered a 1.2 per cent pay raise that is mandated by the province. AGSEM officials pointed to a Canadian rate of inflation of 3.1 per cent.

AGSEM has called a general meeting on October 19 to discuss mobilization efforts.

Officials were quick to say a TA strike mandate or any kind of work stoppage would need a separate vote from that for pressure tactics.

According to TA employment calculations by AGSEM and data from University enrolment numbers, the ratio of increased graduate and undergraduate student enrollment to new TAships has risen to 27 to 1 since 2007.

Section 109.1 interpretation

The McGill administration has twice in recent years called on the anti-scab provision of the Quebec Labour Code as justification for firing striking workers from their other positions on campus.

In the first instance, during a TA strike in 2008, the administration fired all striking TAs from their other positions on campus.

Similarly, during the current MUNACA strike, the administration fired striking workers who were also employed as course lecturers, paying them a 20 per cent indemnity.

Before the next round of bargaining sessions scheduled for October 20 and 21, AGSEM is planning to draft an agreement that would save the non-striking jobs of workers on strike.

According to Mooney, such an agreement would “lessen the impact of a strike” on the University, and for the administration to refuse it would be “retaliatory.”