Update on AGSEM (Teaching Assistant) Negotiations

Published: 5 April 2024

The following message is being sent on behalf of McGill’s Human Resources Department.

La version française suit.

Dear members of the McGill community,

As noted in my March 23 message, the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM) representing Teaching Assistants began a strike on March 25. Since then, we have received various questions from our community, which I aim to address below.

How did we get here?

The collective agreement expired on July 31, 2023, and AGSEM and McGill began negotiating a new agreement in September. Following a series of meetings, at which agreement was reached on various non-monetary elements, we began discussing monetary considerations on December 18.

Wage comparisons

In December 2023, AGSEM requested an immediate 40% salary increase for its members, citing comparator wages in Ontario. However, the University considers that the appropriate labour market comparator is Québec, where the University is situated.

As specified in the collective agreement negotiated by AGSEM and the University, McGill Teaching Assistants currently earn an hourly wage of $33.03. This is 24.6% more than the Québec average of $26.50 and 10.8% more than the next highest-paying Québec university, as seen in the table below.

Key Québec universities and provincial average (2024 rates)

McGill University

$ 33.03 (since 2022)

Concordia University

$ 29.81

Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières

$ 28.97

Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)

$ 27.73

École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS)

$ 27.58

Hautes études commerciales de Montréal (HEC)

$ 26.94

Université de Montréal

$ 26.83

Québec average

$ 26.50

Université Laval

$ 25.54

École Polytechnique

$ 25.05

Université de Sherbrooke

$ 23.02

Even when compared with the national hourly average for Teaching Assistant rates, estimated at $34 with the use of data from the Canadian Association of University Business Officers (CAUBO), McGill is competitive.

Contrary to what has been communicated elsewhere, McGill has never proposed a salary freeze or pay reduction. McGill’s global proposal includes an increase of 14.5% over four years, which is higher than the average salary increase already negotiated at other Québec universities and which will position McGill Teaching Assistants’ hourly wages even further ahead of those of their Québec peers.

Roles and responsibilities

Yesterday, the Tribunal administratif du travail dismissed a request for a safeguard order presented by AGSEM. The union alleged that the University was contravening the provisions of the Québec Labour Code, with respect to replacement workers during a strike. 

 In its decision, the Tribunal concluded that the University had not contravened the Labour Code when instructors performed the functions of their Teaching Assistants during the strike or when the University had an exam invigilated by two managers. 

As a reminder, there is more information available about roles and responsibilities during a strike on this Labour Relations webpage.

Contractual hours

Some have said that Teaching Assistants regularly work unpaid hours. However, if more hours of work are required than specified in the letter of offer, the collective agreement (section 11.04) provides a process by which Teaching Assistants can be paid for these additional hours. Therefore, Teaching Assistants feeling the need to work beyond what is stipulated in their letter of offer should speak with their Course Supervisor to address the situation.

McGill email access

System accesses required for the performance of work, including work email, will only be restored once the strike is over. It is unnecessary to contact the IT team regarding this matter. However, Teaching Assistants still have access to their student accounts and Workday to view their pay stubs and tax statements.


McGill fully recognizes the right to picket, and picketers have a range of peaceful, legally permissible options for raising awareness of their positions. While peaceful picketing is lawful, obstructing academic activities, intimidating students and instructors, and damaging property is not. A number of colleagues and students have been unnerved by the interruptions within their classes and labs by AGSEM members. Others said they felt too intimidated to enter buildings where members were blocking access. This is simply unacceptable.

As Provost Manfredi noted in his message to our community on March 27, “where laws or McGill policies have been contravened, we will continue to act, whether that be calling the police or starting disciplinary procedures, to protect the rights of all members of our community who deserve to carry out their activities in a peaceful, respectful environment.”

Thank you for your patience during this difficult period. We look forward to continuing our discussions with the union in a spirit of mutual respect, with a view to resuming normal activities as quickly as possible.



Francis Desjardins
Director, Labour and Employee Relations

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