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SUS councillors voice support for AGSEM union drive

Additional fees for projects and student space fund go to referendum

Last Wednesday, the Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) General Council (GC) passed motions from the November 5 General Assembly (GA), which could not pass them since it had not reached quorum. These included a motion to support AGSEM: McGill’s Teaching Union’s unionization campaign, and motions to increase the SUS base fee and create a new student space improvement fee.

Support for AGSEM union drive

The motion to support AGSEM’s union drive had been tabled at the GA because attendees wanted a more thorough understanding of what passing the motion would entail. At the GC, AGSEM Teaching Assistant (TA) Grievance Officer Benjamin Elgie explained the campaign and was available to answer the councillors’ questions. AGSEM is currently seeking to unionize currently non-unionized teaching staff, such as graders, undergraduate teaching assistants, and tutors.

As it stands, undergraduate tutors are not guaranteed any hours through their employment at McGill, Elgie said. Course notetakers are currently paid $100 per course, a contract that, according to Elgie, may possibly be in violation of Quebec’s labour code, as he said it is against the code to be paid per unit of production instead of by time.

Some concerns brought up included whether or not unionization would lead to higher fees and lower employment of undergraduates; councillors also asked about the effects that unionization would have on undergraduate employees.

Elgie said that, potentially, undergraduate TAs and graders could see a reduction in their hours, if the teaching support budget is not increased via linkage to undergraduate enrollment, which AGSEM is currently bargaining for. He clarified that it would be upon the newly unionized employees to decide what they would like from their contract.

SUS VP External Emily Boytinck spoke in favour of the motion, noting the importance of making students aware that they have the option to unionize.
“I think it doesn’t speak on behalf of the workers and it gives workers the choice of whether they want to be unionized or not, and if workers are unaware of this campaign then they are stripped of the right to have that choice,” Boytinck said.

Another councillor spoke in favour of the motion, saying that, as an undergraduate tutor, it would be valuable to have at least a guaranteed income.
The motion passed with 13 votes for, no votes against, and 11 abstentions.

Base fee increase and student space fee

The Motion to Increase the Science Undergraduate Base Fee and Motion to Introduce the Student Space Improvement Fee were also passed by the GC, to be voted on by SUS members via online ballot. For full-time Bachelor of Science (BSc) students, the base fee will increase from $7.50 to $12.50 per semester, and the student space improvement fee will be $7.00 per semester.

According to Boytinck, the increase in the base fee will be used to fund a variety of projects such as a possible SUS career fair and sustainability initiatives (such as recycling at Burnside, which currently just gets thrown in the trash). SUS VP Communications May Yin-Liao said the money might also be used to make an SUS agenda and handbook, and SUS VP Academic Jeremy Goh said it would also help with increasing the diversity of schools at the SUS Grad Fair.

The student space improvement fee will go to projects set out by the GC, possibly including renovations to the Burnside basement and additional lockers for Biology students. A portion will be dedicated to improvement of departmental student spaces.