McGill teaching assistants protest low pay and shabby working conditions

    MONTREAL, March 13 /CNW Telbec/ - McGill's 2,000 teaching assistants are
today protesting the University's stubborn refusal to reduce the huge salary
gaps they face compared to pay for TAs at other elite research universities in
Canada. They will demonstrate at the school's Roddick Gates, at Sherbrooke and
McGill College in downtown Montreal, at 4 pm to express their growing anger
over the university's stonewalling during six months of contract negotiations.
    Members of the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM
-CSN) have worked without a collective agreement since last summer. They are
asking for an immediate salary adjustment that would put pay at the average
for teaching assistants at Canada's leading research universities, a raise of
roughly $6 an hour.
    "It's about respect and recognition for professionals who play a vital
role in the university community," said AGSEM President Salim Ali. "Our
demands are modest and reasonable considering that we would need a raise of
more than $12 per hour, or 55 per cent, to match TA pay at the University of
Ottawa or the University of Toronto."
    The total amount in salaries paid to McGill's graduate students is less
than 1 per cent of the university's budget, and would remain so even if it
agreed to AGSEM's salary demands.
    McGill's TAs, who currently earn $22.24 per hour but are only paid for an
average of 12 hours each week, are also fighting to improve services to the
student body.
    Despite important teaching and grading responsibilities, for instance,
McGill provides insufficient private office space for TAs to meet students to
discuss their academic challenges in a confidential setting, much less grade
papers or exams in an appropriate environment.
    As well, AGSEM deplores a total lack of paid training, and is demanding
the university raise the quality of undergraduate education by implementing a
thorough training program. Finally, class sizes in courses where TAs grade
essays and lead discussion groups need to be capped: in some departments TAs
are responsible for more than 70 students each semester.
    AGSEM Vice-President Natalie Kouri-Towe is disappointed that McGill
appears to have forgotten the confrontation during the last round of
negotiations, which lasted two years and culminated in a month-long strike.
    "We really expected that this time the university would come to the table
in good faith and come to an amicable settlement," said Kouri-Towe. "But we
have spent six months in negotiations and we are barely any closer to an
agreement than when we started."

For further information:

For further information: Lyle Stewart, CSN communications service, (514)

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