By the overwhelming margin of 86.4 per cent, McGill University’s striking teaching assistants voted to reject a “global” contract offer from the McGill administration during a general assembly held Tuesday evening. Despite a series of ruthless tactics employed by the McGill administration since their strike was declared April 8, the result clearly demonstrates that teaching assistants refuse to be bullied into accepting an offer that does not respond to their most important priorities.
These goals include a cap on the number of students in discussion-based conferences, a workload form that fairly records the actual work TAs perform for McGill, and salaries that reflect McGill’s status as a leading Canadian research university. McGill’s proposal either ignored these demands or included articles that would actually weaken the rights teaching assistants have now.
During the last month, members of the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM) have been fired en masse from unrelated university jobs as exam invigilators, research assistants and sessional lecturers, among others. Indeed, the day before the global offer was filed with the union, an administration official circulated an email indicating that members of AGSEM would not receive any form of employment income from the university until the strike ends – an unmistakable attempt to frighten grad students into approving an unacceptable offer.
“The administration’s campaign of intimidation has failed to undermine the solidarity of teaching assistants in our fight to obtain decent working conditions and fair wages,” said AGSEM’s newly elected president, Richard Hink. “With this vote, we have demonstrated our resolve to negotiate a collective agreement that reflects the contribution we make to this university.”
AGSEM, which is affiliated with the Fédération nationale des enseignantes et enseignants du Québec – CSN, will propose that McGill quickly return to the bargaining table to find a negotiated compromise.
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