McGill teaching assistants endorse collective agreement

    MONTREAL, June 13 /CNW Telbec/ - McGill University's striking teaching
assistants voted 96 per cent, during a general assembly Thursday evening, to
accept a conciliator's recommendations and approve a new collective agreement.
However, the strike continues as a back-to-work protocol is negotiated with
the university administration.
    The 2,000 members of the Association of Graduate Students Employed at
McGill (AGSEM) have been on strike since April 8 to obtain improvements to
salaries and working conditions that recognize their contribution to McGill's
pedagogical mission.
    The agreement endorsed yesterday by the TA union, which is affiliated
with the Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec
(FNEEQ-CSN), is a major step toward ending the exploitation of graduate
students as a source of cheap labour on campus, while improving the quality of
undergraduate education.
    The agreement contains protection against unpaid overtime, explicitly
recognizes TAs' pedagogical role and commits McGill to a process that would
create a limit to the number of students in discussion groups led by teaching
    The four-year agreement, which includes raises of 2.5, 3, 3, and 3.5 per
cent, contains guarantees that any wage raises will not be clawed back through
reductions in other stipends for graduate students at McGill. At the end of
the contract in 2011, McGill TAs will earn $24.99 per hour.
    Other gains include paid training, protection against psychological and
sexual harassment, intellectual property protections, improved sick leave and
bereavement leave, and a commitment to supply the tools and materials TAs need
to do their jobs.
    "This agreement is a huge improvement for us," said AGSEM President
Richard Hink. "Our ability to lead discussions, grade papers and exams, and
help students achieve their academic goals are directly linked to our working
conditions. Students and teaching assistants at McGill University will both
benefit from this agreement."
    During the conflict, McGill fired many AGSEM members from unrelated
on-campus jobs, pressured professors to withdraw paid research assistantships
and forced faculty to perform the work of the striking teaching assistants.
Roughly 300 grievances were filed over these tactics to address almost
$400,000 in unpaid wages and stipends.
    McGill must honourably resolve these issues in a back-to-work protocol,
said FNEEQ President Ronald Cameron, who saluted the fighting spirit of
McGill's teaching assistants in the face of these harsh attacks from the
university administration.
    "McGill University is one of the toughest employers in Quebec's
post-secondary education sector. However, these negotiations lead us to
conclude that union action at McGill will deliver the results our members
need," said Mr. Cameron.

For further information:

For further information: Lyle Stewart, CSN Communications Service, (514)

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