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Around 1,600 teaching assistants at McGill University have gone on strike as the winter semester enters its final stretch. The TAs voted 87.5 per cent in favor of an eight-week strike mandate, with the main point of contention being salaries. They are seeking to reduce the salary disparity between McGill and other similar universities, where the average salary for TAs is $46.36 per hour compared to McGill’s rate of $33.03 per hour. The negotiations have not yielded a favorable salary offer, leading to the decision to strike.

The workers are also advocating for their course hours to be indexed in relation to the number of students they are responsible for, ensuring a minimum number of hours. According to Fanny Teissandier, an anthropology TA, McGill has been reducing contracted hours for teaching assistants, putting their pay and the quality of education at risk. The negotiating committee comprises three members from the Association of Graduate Student Employees of McGill and an advisor from the National Federation of Teachers of Quebec-CSN (FNEEQ-CSN).

Negotiations for the renewal of the collective agreement for these TAs began in September. A strike fund will be available to the teaching assistants, with eligible participants receiving $350 per week if they engage in 20 hours of weekly strike activity, the majority of which will be covered by the FNEEQ-CSN. The strike is expected to impact undergraduate students at McGill as TAs play a vital role in helping and supervising students with their studies. The strike could potentially delay the final grades for courses, depending on the duration of the strike, which Teissandier hopes will not be prolonged.

Teissandier stressed the importance of treating teaching assistants with respect and dignity to protect their living conditions and uphold McGill’s educational mission. The strike mandate is strong, and the union members are determined to continue until they receive a salary offer that meets their expectations. The FNEEQ-CSN vice president, Christine Gauthier, expressed disappointment in the negotiations, stating that the union has shown flexibility but has received little in return from the university. The strike action aims to push for fair compensation and better working conditions for teaching assistants at McGill.

The teaching assistants are grad students who assist and supervise students, correct academic work, conduct seminars, manage administrative tasks, and provide academic support outside of class hours. The strike highlights the vital role that TAs play in the educational system and the need to value and support their contributions. The union and negotiating committee are advocating for fair treatment and compensation to ensure the well-being of teaching assistants and the quality of education at McGill. The outcome of the strike will have implications for students, faculty, and the university as a whole, emphasizing the need for collaborative and respectful negotiations to reach a resolution.

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