News  TA union votes for pressure tactics

Faced with an apparent gridlock at the bargaining table, the union representing teaching assistants (TAs) at McGill voted last Wednesday to initiate pressure tactics in hopes of moving negotiations forward.

The General Assembly of the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM) was attended by over 100 TAs, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of the use of pressure tactics, according to Jonathan Mooney, an AGSEM negotiator.

The vote comes after five months of negotiations that have seen McGill reject most of the union’s core demands.

Union officials were quick to stress that the authorized pressure tactics did not include any kind of strike or work stoppage, which would need to be authorized by a separate vote.

The authorization of pressure tactics explains the appearance of a number of AGSEM posters that have appeared around campus detailing the union’s talking points.

Union officials called off an action last Friday, based on “progress” made at the evening bargaining session on October 20 on the issue of TA training.

According to Mooney, the union and McGill signed off on two “non-core” clauses. Only a handful of clauses have been signed over the past five months, he said.

The administration declined to comment about the negotiations,  but Mooney said there has been no progress on any of the union’s other primary demands. The union is asking for a three per cent pay raise, caps on the sizes of conferences and labs, the hiring of more TAs, and mandatory meetings with course supervisors.

McGill is offering the province-mandated 1.2 per cent pay increase, which union officials say pales in comparison to a 3.1 per cent rate of Canadian inflation.

While declining to say what other pressure tactics AGSEM had in store, Mooney said that any pressure tactic would “respect the McGill community.”

“Students can expect that there will be no work stoppage whatsoever. Our TAs will continue to perform their duties with the same skill and diligence that they always do,” he said.

“We consider professors and students to be allies and stakeholders in these negotiations.”

AGSEM went on strike in the spring of 2008, and the work stoppage delayed the release of course grades well into the summer.