Labour Board upholds McGill position

Published: 24 April 2008

To: All McGill Staff and Students

There has been an important development in the strike by McGill’s teaching assistants.

On Wednesday, April 23, the Commission des Relations du Travail du Québec issued an order that supports McGill’s interpretation of Quebec labour law as it applies to professors marking papers and exams, submitting grades and teaching summer courses.

As you may know, AGSEM, the Union representing the teaching assistants, had argued that the University did not have the right to assign this work to professors. At a Commission hearing April 18 to deal with a Union complaint, AGSEM agreed during a mediation session to the terms of an agreement that formed the basis of the April 23 order. The Union’s subsequent attempt, on Monday, April 21, to pull back from that agreement was dismissed on April 23.

McGill has maintained since the strike began on April 7 that the evaluation of students is a fundamental part of a professor’s academic responsibilities, that the University has never ceded sole jurisdiction for marking papers and exams to teaching assistants. The University has argued that having professors grade papers and mark exams is legal under the terms of Quebec’s labour law.

The Commission, specifying that professors may mark and grade in courses they teach, has upheld that view. The University continues to negotiate with AGSEM and continues to work toward a quick end to this dispute. But McGill has a responsibility to ensure its students are not penalized by the TAs’ decision to strike. The University will continue with steps to guarantee that exams are supervised and marked, grades are submitted and the delivery of summer courses is only minimally affected.

The University would also be shirking its responsibilities if it did not plan for the possibility of the dispute dragging on into the fall. McGill is, therefore, making plans for the smooth operation of the University in September in the event there is no settlement by that time.

McGill remains acutely aware of its fiscal responsibilities, particularly its obligation to eliminate its $15-million deficit within three years.

Students, faculty and staff are urged to visit the McGill website regularly for the latest information. For a summary of each side’s position in this dispute, please pick up a copy of the April 24 edition of The Reporter, in which both the Union and the University were invited to submit a brief article outlining the points they felt were important.

For the full text version of the Commission’s order, please click on the PDF posted at the upper right corner of this page.

For more information and a list of Frequently Asked Questions, please visit:

Morton J. Mendelson, PhD
Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning)

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