McGill’s invigilators – a bargaining unit of AGSEM, McGill’s teaching union – have called off a strike vote scheduled for today, after the McGill administration agreed to enter arbitration proceedings yesterday morning. The union had been requesting arbitration since the early summer, which the administration had been resisting.
The provincial government will now assign an arbitrator, who will impose the terms of a legally binding resolution for the union’s contract negotiations with McGill.
“I see that as a victory on our part,” said Kazem Fayabakhsh, a member of the union’s bargaining team.
Invigilators are negotiating their first contract after voting overwhelmingly last year to join AGSEM, which also represents teaching assistants and course lecturers.
It was well known that the union wanted to go into arbitration throughout the later stages of negotiations, but refrained from submitting a formal demand. It was unlikely the conciliator would grant approval, a crucial step towards arbitration.
According to AGSEM bargainer Molly Alexander, both the conciliator and the administration had been resistant to arbitration, but unrest among the union’s membership and the threat of a strike two days before exams changed their minds.
On Monday morning, the union and McGill both submitted requests for arbitration, and the conciliator agreed.
Invigilators are currently paid $10 an hour and are seeking an increase of $5.25, according to members of the bargaining team. McGill has thus far offered a 1.2 per cent increase, or a raise of 12 cents.
The union is also seeking recognition of seniority, and the establishment of a standardized pay scheme.
Lerona Lewis, AGSEM president and a member of the bargaining team, said that the pay increase is reasonable, but that the union has seen no movement on the demand.
According to the union’s calculations, the provincial average for invigilators is $15.72 an hour.
It was unclear what an invigilator strike two days before exams would have looked like or how it might have disrupted exams, but it would have required the university to find replacement workers for at least 300 strikers.
Arbitration is set to begin in late January.