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Thousands of unionized McGill workers still without contract

At least a few thousand of McGill’s unionized workers are working without a contract, some for as long as two years.

Four bargaining units from two different unions representing course lecturers, invigilators, research assistants, and research associates are all currently negotiating contracts for the first time.

AGSEM, the union representing course lecturers and invigilators, has been at the negotiating table with the University since 2010.

AGSEM has represented Teaching Assistants since 1993, but was also accredited to represent course lecturers and invigilators in 2010. The Association of McGill University Research Employes (AMURE), which represents research assistants and associates won its accreditation in 2010.

Union officials say that the slow bargaining process is primarily because the contracts in question are without precedent at McGill and need to be built from scratch.

Negotiators for invigilators are chiefly looking for an increase in wages from $10 an hour to $15.25, which the union says is the provincial average. Negotiations have been under provincially supervised arbitration since last spring.

Other issues of contention for invigilators include the posting of vacancies and a standardized seniority protocol.

According to AGSEM negotiator Sunci Avlijas, the roughly 800 invigilators could see a contract by this spring.

The timeline for course lecturers is a bit less clear, as union officials in their bargaining unit are keeping mum about negotiations.

Bargaining for course lecturers is continuing “as usual,” according to Stefana Lamasanu, the bargaining unit’s communications officer. When asked if the recently announced cuts to Arts classes – which are hitting course lecturers the hardest – were affecting the bargaining process, Lamasanu reiterated that bargaining was proceeding as usual.

Lilian Radovac, president of AGSEM, says that the slow progress of negotiations is not a surprise. “McGill has a long history of delaying contracts,” she said, adding that the first TA contract took five years to negotiate.

McGill’s 1,200 research assistants and research associates, the latter of which are classified as casual workers, may have a contract to vote on as soon as next month, according to AMURE President Matthew Annis.

While research assistants and research associates are in two separate bargaining units, the two contracts will be finished at the same time, according to Annis, who is also on the bargaining committee.