Unionized teaching assistants at McGill University signed the final text of their third collective agreement with the administration today, more than a month after they voted to end an eleven-week strike for better working conditions.

The 2,000 members of the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM) struck from April 8 until June 18 – one of the longest graduate employee strikes in North America – to obtain better wages, improvements in the quality of education at McGill and working conditions that recognize their contribution to McGill’s pedagogical mission.

The agreement signed today 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. The new agreement includes better wages; improved conference, bereavement and sick leave; protections that safeguard intellectual property and provide recourse to sexual and psychological harassment; paid training, equipment and supplies; additional resources for the union and a mandatory “Workload Form” that prevents unpaid overtime and clearly defines the tasks assigned to the employee.

“We fought long and hard for the terms of our new collective agreement and it reflects a vast improvement in our working conditions,” said AGSEM President Richard Hink. “ For us, today’s signing underscores the power of unionized teaching staff and what we can achieve together through collective bargaining – and, when necessary, withholding our labour.”

AGSEM was recognized as the accredited bargaining unit for McGill’s TAs in 1993, making it the first and largest graduate employee union in the province of Québec.

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