In the largest General Assembly since their rejection of the Administration’s “Global Offer” on May 6th, McGill’s teaching assistants voted resoundingly in favour of accepting the settlement recommendation of the conciliator appointed by the Minister of Labour. Now that the text of the Collective Agreement has been ratified, only the Back-to-Work Protocol addressing TAs dismissed and suspended from other campus employment remains. It has been reported incorrectly in the media that our strike is over.  While we are closer than ever to a settlement, negotiations continue on the Back-to-Work Protocol. The strike does not end until the Back-to-Work Protocol has been ratified to ensure an orderly return to work. Here is the press release after the vote:

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 assistants.

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 higher 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 :

Lyle Stewart, CSN Communications Service

514 796-2066