Workday Means More Work (and No Pay) for TAs at McGill
MONTREAL, Dec. 22, 2020 /CNW/ - Contrary to what McGill has stated to the media, the issues caused by Workday—McGill's new HR system, launched in August—are not individual problems. At the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM), we have dealt with hundreds of requests for assistance from Teaching Assistants and Invigilators during the Fall 2020 term. AGSEM knows of over 460 TAs who were not paid within the first 30 days of starting work, a violation of the Labour Standards Act. Over 180 TAs were not paid within the first 60 days, and many have still not been paid. At least 10 departments did not pay any of their TAs within the first 30 days of their contracts. Some TAs had their paycheques sent to the wrong address (or to McGill itself) and are therefore unable to actually get their pay. In addition, the Workday system does not supply pay stubs that are compliant with the Labour Standards Act. TAs will now be expected to complete the same onboarding as a full-time, permanent staff member, creating confusion and an undue burden on student-employees. The Workday system is also in violation of AGSEM's Collective Agreement in terms of the application process and notification of the application's outcome. TAs have spent countless hours trying to fix ongoing problems, as they continue to compound: many AGSEM members now measure the amount of time spent on Workday issues in "months'' rather than "minutes."
When we raised these issues, McGill told AGSEM that things would be fixed in October, then November. We are now midway through December, with no concrete solutions. AGSEM filed several grievances in regards to member pay where we predict McGill will spend time and money defending a system that is clearly broken. AGSEM still does not know when all of our members will finally be paid, or what has been specifically done by the University to ensure that this issue will not occur next term: while we already know of several systemic issues in regards to next term's hiring, AGSEM was recently told that the University would not consider changes to Workday until after Winter 2021. In Employee Group and Labour Relations meetings, we have requested a full audit of employees who are not yet in the HR system and therefore unpaid, as well as those who were issued paycheques with major errors: each request has been refused by McGill. These failures we describe here are those of senior management and leadership, who should take responsibility and not pass blame onto overworked TAs or support staff.
To address these problems, we at AGSEM are publicly calling on McGill to give a specific timeline as to when the systemic issues posed by Workday will be fixed; create a task force of McGill administrators, union, and association representatives to address Workday issues; and pay employees who have still not been fully compensated for their work.
We at AGSEM want to emphasize that issues at hand are not pandemic-related, as McGill had been planning for this shift to Workday since at least 2017. However, these Workday problems magnify the ongoing issues of precarity for McGill graduate student employees. Even though it is ranked #35 in the QS World University Rankings, and #1 for Medical/Doctoral Universities in Canada by Maclean's, McGill continues to miss its own internal funding and time-to-completion targets for graduate students. A 2016 AGSEM survey showed that over a third of TAs went without medical services due to finances. McGill's response to concerns about financial strain resulting from Workday has been to put a $1,500 loan (due January 1, 2020) in some students' McGill accounts, without these students' prior knowledge or consent.
AGSEM knows that 2020 has been a hard year for many, but the lack of leadership and action to fix a broken HR system is making life more difficult for TAs who have been working throughout the pandemic. With 2021 rapidly approaching, AGSEM calls on McGill to make a change and start the new year off right—by paying its employees.