Frequently Asked Questions - Labour Dispute AGSEM - TAs

Published: 21 March 2024


Course Instructors/supervisors

In the event of a labour dispute, the University will continue its operations. The academic integrity of programs will be honoured, and students, faculty and staff will have the freedom to enter and exit the University building and grounds. The University wishes to take all measures necessary to ensure that students are not unduly affected by a strike, particularly the graduating class.

Course instructors/supervisors are employees given the responsibility of a teaching activity, including setting the objectives, content and methods of instruction as well as final grades and grading practices of the activity; they may be academics governed by the Regulations Relating to the Employment of Tenure-Track and Tenured Academic Staff, or by the Regulations Relating to the Employment of Contract Academic Staff; and they may also be employees part of the McGill Course Lecturers and Instructors Union.


  1. Who can and can’t work if a strike is declared?

All AGSEM-TA union members with an active contract will be considered on strike and cannot work or be paid for their services. In the event of partial or rotating strikes in targeted areas, members of AGSEM-TA in those areas are deemed on strike and the University must not ask or allow them to work.

Students who do not currently work as casual employees cannot be hired to carry out the duties of TAs on strike or locked-out.

Casual employees currently doing work similar to striking TAs can continue to do the work for which they were hired. They cannot do the work of TAs on strike. McGill can continue to hire casual workers, but they should not replace striking TAs. Casual employees currently on contract should continue to perform the work they do without adding to their responsibility in order to compensate for the striking TAs.

Managers can do the work normally done by TAs on strike if employed at the University on the date when negotiations began, July 31, 2023. (Quebec Labour Code definition of “managers” follows)

  1. Who is a manager?

The Québec Labour Code and the caselaw define a manager as a person with most of the following responsibilities:

  • representing the employer in its relations with employees;
  • managing the work of others, establishes work schedules, authorizes absences, approves timesheets, determines workloads and assignments, etc.;
  • having decision-making and supervisory authority;
  • having the authority to hire, discipline and dismiss employees.

Academics supervising TAs (Course Supervisors as defined by section 2.06 of the TA collective agreement) have managerial responsibilities such as hiring, supervising the work, determining workload and hours of work, approving relief from duties, providing training, and resolving problems related to hours worked with their TAs. As managers, they can carry out the work of their TAs on strike.

Academics without managerial responsibilities are not considered part of management personnel and are expected to carry out their normal duties during a strike or lock-out. Their duties include a broad range of teaching and research activities. Academics should continue their activities including teaching of laboratory courses, as well as grading exams and assignments, and ensuring grades are recorded.

Academic administrators with administrative and managerial responsibilities (such as Deans, Chairs and Directors) are part of management personnel and can carry out the work of TAs on strike, provided that they were employed by the University prior to July 31, 2023.


  1. My TAs have assignments already in their possession that have not yet been graded? What should I do?

It is the instructor’s responsibility to ensure that papers and exams are not taken home by TAs and are available for grading by instructors at all times. In the event of a strike, final exams that are centrally administered cannot be picked up by TAs, they must be picked up by instructors or sent to the academic unit, where they should be given to the instructors, not to the TAs.

Copies of all assignments that are in the TA’s possession should be obtained immediately. If TAs don’t comply or delay, contact your local HR advisor for support.

  1. Is grading papers and exams the exclusive responsibility of the TAs?

No, grading is the instructor’s responsibility. Instructors have the responsibility for grading papers and exams in the event of a strike. Instructors can use graders if they were hired in the normal course of business, i.e., at the usual time of the year when the hiring of graders happens. However, it is not permitted to hire graders now, and have them grade so that instructors don’t have to do it themselves.

  1. To whom do I report any disruptions in my department that may occur before or in the event of a strike?

Any disruptions or unusual activity should be immediately reported to (514) 398-3000 (Security) and to your local HR advisor.


  1. My TA says that if they go on strike, as the course instructor, I cannot grade exams and assignments. Is this true?

This is incorrect. Grading is part of the duties of an instructor who is responsible for the course in question. It is not exclusive to the function of TAs.

  1. There are graduating students in my course, and they are worried their exams won’t be graded in time, what should I do?

Grading the assessments of graduating students must be prioritized. Checking class lists to understand who is due to graduate will be necessary.

  1. My TA says that we are not allowed to use graders. Is this true?

No. Graders can be used if they were hired in the normal course of business, i.e., at the usual time of the year when the hiring of graders happens. However, it is not permitted to hire graders for the purpose of grading so that the course instructors do not have to grade during a strike.

  1. I asked my TAs to give me all assignments currently in their possession, course mark sheets, etc. and they are refusing. What should I do?

Instructors are entitled to get all this material, and your TA must comply. Be firm and insist. If the TA refuses to comply or delays, contact your local HR advisor for support.

  1. Can I change the format of the final exam if there is a strike? For example, give a multiple-choice exam.

Altering the format of final exams should be avoided. However, in some cases, it may be necessary to modify some elements of the final exam format unless it was already specified. (e.g., change a long-answer format exam to short answer or multiple choice).

The method of delivery of the final exam may not change (e.g., In-person exams must still take place in person.

Contingency plans cannot affect the students’ transcripts without their permission. Students cannot be given an incomplete until TAs return to work to do the grading.

Instructors are to discuss any proposed changes with Chairs/Directors, or Faculty Leadership.

  1. Can I change other types of evaluation and assessment in the event of a strike?

Changing the method of assessment or evaluation should be avoided, but if absolutely necessary it may be possible, ensuring that any change applies to all students. Such changes may include altering the weight of assessment components or perhaps modifying the format of questions. However, you must ensure that students who have legitimately opted not to complete an assessment earlier in the term are not penalized due to any reweighting. For example, a course assessment comprises five assignments, with the best four counting 60%, and a final exam counting 40% of the overall grade. Three assignments have been completed so far. You cannot reweigh the overall grade to make the first three assignments mandatory and worth 75% and the final worth 25%.

Instructors are to discuss any proposed changes with Chairs/Directors, or Faculty Leadership.


  1. My TA wants my opinion on the negotiations and/or the labour dispute. What can I say?

The Québec Labour Code limits what an employer can say during negotiation and/or during a labour dispute. This line is very thin and crossing it may result in a complaint filed by AGSEM against McGill for attempting to influence the negotiating process. While faculty members are free to express their views, we strongly advise not to engage in such discussions. If faculty members engage in such discussions, they should be guided by the above. Faculty members are also advised not to question individual TAs about their personal views regarding the strike, their vote or whether or not they intend to participate in the strike.

  1. Some of the TAs in my Faculty want to continue working and are not interested in participating in the strike. Can I make them work?

No. If a strike is declared, TAs are members of the Bargaining Unit, whether they have signed a union membership card or not, and are not allowed to work and will not be paid. There can be no exception to this rule.

Instructors cannot request or allow TAs to work in consideration of pay to be received at a later date and TAs cannot receive compensation from other sources, such as research funds, for TA work done during a strike.

  1. A TA asked my administrative assistant to communicate information to students and professors about the labour dispute and/or the negotiations. Should she do so?

No. They should not facilitate the communication of the TA’s perspective on this labour dispute. Administrative support staff (technicians, clerical and management staff) should be informed not to distribute notes or e-mails on behalf of TAs and/or AGSEM.

  1. My TAs want to address the class about the labour dispute or the negotiations. Should I allow them?

We strongly advise not to allow this. It is important to distinguish between students and student-employees. Students should not be involved in the labour dispute while in the classroom. If you allow this, you could be asked to comment, confirm or deny statements made by the TAs placing you in a situation for which you don't have the answers. The answer to Question 12 also applies to this situation.


  1. What do I do if there are picket lines?

Picket lines must not block access. If they do, the University will take measures to ensure that buildings, classrooms, and exam rooms are accessible. If you are prevented from having access, please call (514) 398-3000, and someone will provide support.

Members of the McGill community are not obliged to cross a picket line. No one should place their physical well-being or that of others at risk in order to cross a picket line. Individuals who are denied access as a result of a picket line should note the facts surrounding the incident and contact (514) 398-3000 and your local HR Advisor for support.

  1. What happens if, as a matter of conscience, I decide not to cross a picket line and therefore not perform some or all of my academic duties?

Academic staff should not alter their teaching or other duties on account of the strike. If, as a matter of conscience, a staff member decides not to cross a picket line, they must report their decision immediately to their Chair/Director or in the case of a Faculty within departments, to their Dean. They will not be paid for the days they are not present for service on campus.

  1. Will TAs keep digital access to course materials, grade-books, and other data if a strike is declared? (e.g., via the learning management system [LMS])? How does this impact a TA's dual role as a student?

All relevant access to TAs pertaining to their role as TA or other employee roles will be revoked for the duration of the strike. However, striking TAs should retain access to the materials, systems, and tools they need for their work as students.

  1. Some of my TAs have other work assignments (such as RAs, Course Lecturers, Invigilators, AMUSE-Casuals, graders, etc.) covered by another contract than AGSEM-TA Collective Agreement. Can they continue to perform those additional assignments?

No. If TAs are on strike, they are not allowed to work, including under a different contract, unionized or not. Note: this only applies to TAs who are under a contract for the academic term during which the strike is declared and for as long as the strike lasts.

Managers and HR should be notified promptly so that they can ensure that work is not being done by striking TAs who hold multiple assignments.

a. How do their duties from their non-TA other assignment get covered?

Since the other position of the TA is not part of an employee group that is on strike, there is no “strikebreaker” restrictions to cover the duties of this other position. The standard day-to-day replacement process applies for the non-TA duties to be performed.

In the Faculties/Units where there is a high volume of TAs holding another non-TA position, some level of contingency planning could also be required to cover for those other non-TA positions.

b. Does this issue only apply to the current term?

As long as the TAs are on strike, the same restrictions on who can perform their work apply.

  1. If an employee held a TA appointment in a previous term, is occupying a non-TA position in this current term and does not hold a TA appointment in the current term, will they be able to continue their current non-TA duties this term?

Yes, since they are not an active TA, they are not paying union dues, they are not a member of the union, and therefore they are not on strike. They can continue to work in their current non-TA position.

  1. What happens to course activities that are led by TAs (e.g., laboratories, conferences, etc.) in which the course instructor is normally not present or playing an active role? Can an instructor (or Chair or AO etc.) lead these activities?

The instructor and TA sign a Workload Form that identifies the activities to be performed by the TA. The instructor is responsible for the activities covered in a given course assigned to a TA, whether they are directly involved or not in the day-to-day delivery of the activity. The instructor is responsible for the work carried out by the TA and the TA reports to the instructor. In other words, the instructor supervises the TA, making them a Manager under the Labour Code. As such, instructors can fill in for the tasks of a striking TA.

As mentioned in section 1, employees who also have managerial responsibilities (Chairs, Deans, AO, etc.) are also considered managers and can take on TA duties.

*As managers, only those hired before July 31, 2023 can perform the duties of TAs on strike.

If an instructor is unsure, they are to discuss with Chairs/Directors, or Faculty leadership, and HR.

  1. What happens if a course activity cannot be completed and therefore students cannot get a grade for a course?

If absolutely necessary, it may be possible for an instructor to reweigh some assessment components or alter the format of some assessments, provided this is done for all students. In rare situations, it may be necessary to consider a grade of "incomplete”, with completion of activities at a future date. However, graduating students will need other solutions for completion of activities. Instructors are to discuss with Chairs/Directors, or Faculty Leadership as appropriate on a case-by-case basis.

  1. Does the note issued March 19, 2024, by MAUT change any instructions or information shared to-date?


24.  How does an instructor’s role and responsibilities differ in the face of a TA strike?

There is no difference. Academic duties are found, respectively, in the Regulations Relating to the Employment of Tenure-Track and Tenured staff, section 4.1; in the Regulations relating to the Employment of Contract Academic Staff, section 2.1; and the teaching duties of course lecturers and instructors, are detailed in article 12.01 of the MCLIU collective agreement.



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