On November 23, AGSEM Unit 2, the union of invigilators at McGill University, held a General Assembly (GA) to discuss the ongoing bargaining process between the University and the union.
The invigilators’ collective agreement, ratified in May 2013, expired in April. This collective agreement had guaranteed wages of $10.65 per hour.
Currently, invigilators at McGill receive a base pay of $10.86, with the provincially mandated 4 per cent vacation indemnity. In contrast, graduate student invigilators at Université du Québec à Chicoutimi receive $19, those at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) receive $19.74, and those at Université de Montréal receive $17.43.
In addition, the pay rate for invigilators has remained around $10 per hour since 2003, when the provincial minimum wage was $7.30. If the pay increase for invigilators had increased at the same rate as the minimum wage did, the invigilators would currently receive around $15 an hour.
“The Bargaining Committee believes that we have gotten as far as we can regarding our non-monetary demands, and we are happy with our progress.”
The Invigilator Bargaining Committee’s initial proposal was to increase pay to $19 per hour, with a 2 per cent annual increase, as well as an additional 2 per cent vacation pay bonus for invigilators who have passed the probationary period.
In addition, the committee demanded improvements to invigilator working conditions, such as having a maximum ratio of forty students per invigilator, a guarantee of priority in shift assignment for returning invigilators, and proper training sessions.
Over the course of this fall, the committee met with the University several times and managed to finalize in principle the non-monetary sections of the agreement. In a statement released on November 10 on their website, the committee said,“The Bargaining Committee believes that we have gotten as far as we can regarding our non-monetary demands, and we are happy with our progress.”
At the GA, the invigilators passed a motion that approved the committee’s activities so far. More specifically, the motion considered the demands concerning priority in shift assignment, a centralized posting and application system, as well as improved training to have been met.
“So far what they’ve got for us is okay – except we want an increase in pay [greater than] what they are proposing.”
However, the invigilators were not satisfied with the University’s response to the monetary portion of the agreement.
Although it has not made a formal offer, the University is considering increasing the base pay to $12, which is significantly lower than what the invigilators are demanding.
As such, the motion also called for another GA to be held on December 8. If, at that time, the invigilators decide that the University has failed to meet their demands, there will be a strike vote.
Speaking to The Daily, AGSEM Invigilator Grievance Officer Jamie Burnett said, “What we’ve heard from our members today is [that the University’s offer is] not something they think is acceptable and they want us to go back and try to negotiate something that would be fair. If we’re not able to negotiate something that would be acceptable, we would be holding a strike vote.”
Vivian Belfo, who has been invigilating for the Faculty of Medicine for around five years, explained that the invigilators were very accommodating with regards to the University’s offers.
“If the offer is high enough or acceptable to us – then why not? There won’t be a strike.”
“So far what they’ve got for us is okay – except we want an increase in pay [greater than] what they are proposing. We are very flexible, we’re accepting all the other items. […] The main issue is, we’d like a little more increase in the salary,” she said.
Belfo also explained that there is an increasing demand for invigilators at the Faculty of Medicine, and that the skills required of invigilators are specialized.
“It’s very serious – exams and the whole process. [… The Faculty is] demanding a lot, and sometimes we take over if the main person is not there. So we have to be aware of many things. It’s not just looking at students and walking around. There is a lot involved,” she said.
Germano Belfo, another invigilator for the Faculty of Medicine, was optimistic about the negotiations.
“Hopefully they’ll accept […] our offer. And if the offer is high enough or acceptable to us – then why not? There won’t be a strike,” he said.
In an email to The Daily, McGill’s Director of Internal Communications Doug Sweet said that the “[University doesn’t] comment on labour negotiations.”