PGSS Council adopted a new Society Operations Manual yesterday that abolishes the non-voting Council seats of the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM).
The new manual – which goes into effect June 1– also creates the executive position of Member Services Officer and eliminates four commissioner positions.
Another change to the composition of the PGSS Council means that Post Graduate Student Associations (PGSAs) with less than 25 members will not be granted seats in the legislative body.
According to a letter written by AGSEM TA Vice President Justin Marleu, which was read to Council, AGSEM was created through the efforts of the PGSS in the 1980s and 1990s after the PGSS commissioned a report to examine the working conditions of teaching assistants at McGill.
Since its creation, AGSEM has held seats in the legislative body. They were recently changed to two non-voting seats.
AGSEM’s TA Mobilization Officer Sunci Avlijas told The Daily that there hasn’t been a problem between AGSEM and PGSS in terms of having seats on Council.
She also stated that both groups have been able to work closely because of their similar constituency. TAs and course lecturers represented by AGSEM are graduate students.
PGSS President Roland Nassim said that the intention was not to create a rift between the two groups but to preserve the structure of the organization as a whole and “to be consistent with what PGSS does.”
According to Nassim, the move was made to allow for a Council based only on PGSA membership, which are the equivalent of departmental associations at the Graduate level.
“We see an issue of double representation when a councillor is represented both by a union and … by any other department. And also, we see an issue when Council needs to discuss things that cross roads with the mandate of AGSEM,” said Nassim.
Avlijas, however, spoke against the adoption of the new manual by saying that the move would hinder the representation of groups in Council.
“I don’t really think that having an extra seat from the TA union is double representation, because a lot of the councillors which represent departments are not necessarily aware of the issues facing the students employed at McGill; they might have not even been teaching assistants,” said Avlijas.
Nassim told Council that the decision was a “practical no-change,” citing that members of AGSEM would still have the rights that their non-voting seat had provided, such as speaking rights, the rights to move and second motions, and the right to be present during closed sessions – provided permission is granted beforehand.
“Now at any time I wish to go to Council I would ask for permission for speaking rights in Council. If they decide they didn’t want to listen me speak, they could just deny me,” said Avlijas.
“We’re frankly offended that this happened, there is no reason for it… basically it’s an attack on labour unions by the PGSS executive, and I’m very disappointed by the PGSS Council which voted without ever doing a real consultation of the PGSS,” continued Avlijas.
PGSS publicly called for the resignation of the Premier Jean Charest and urged the government to immediately engage in negotiations with all student associations.
The statement was made as a result of the adoption of a motion that also mandates the PGSS to draft a letter denouncing the adoption of the bill.
PGSS VP Finance Adrian Kaats spoke in favour of the motion, stating that Bill 78 was an instance of a government passing laws that set the stage for what has historically been the rise of tyrannical regime.
“Legal experts from across the country have pointed out that this is an intentional attempt to abrogate the rights of the Quebec citizens. They know this cannot withstand the Charter challenge,” said Kaats.
“This is a degree of cynicism on the government that I’ve never witnessed in my lifetime. I don’t think it has been witnessed in Canada,” he added.