Frequently Asked Questions about the Graduate/Teaching Assistant

Frequently Asked Questions about the Graduate/Teaching Assistant
Collective Agreement (CUPE Local 3904, Unit 3)
We have a second collective agreement for Graduate/Teaching Assistants at the
University. The term of the Collective Agreement is from September 24, 2007 to August
31, 2010.
The Human Resources Department has received numerous questions regarding the
interpretation and application of the collective agreement provisions. Below you will
find these Frequently Asked Questions and their responses. We hope that they will
assist Chairs/Directors and/or Supervising Instructors with managing this collective
Who is part of this Union?
Graduate Assistants and Teaching Assistants who assist with teaching or related duties
are members of this Union.
What kind of duties are they actually doing?
They provide course assistance, teaching assistance, tutor, demonstrate, monitor or grade.
Their duties normally fall into four basic classifications or a combination thereof: a.)
laboratory sessions; b.) tutorials; c.) marking; and d.) lab monitors/advisors. Their duties
normally include: preparation, attending lectures, serving as tutors, supervising
labs/demonstration, holding office hours, consulting/assisting students,
grading/marking/proctoring/monitoring the physical environment and equipment in
assigned labs, conferring with the Supervising Instructor, and attending Employer
orientation workshops and training.
Are Lab Monitors/Advisors really part of this Union?
Yes they are. Individuals who are hired to monitor the physical environment and
equipment in a lab, and/or assist students with system-related or hardware problems are
normally called Lab Monitors/Advisors and are part of this Union. These individuals do
not normally report to a Supervising Instructor and do not provide assistance for a
particular course. They are normally part of a centralized service for a
Are Research Assistants part of this Union?
No. Any individual hired to assist with research related duties belong to the OPSEU
Local 596 bargaining unit. You will find their terms and conditions of employment in
Article 14 of the OPSEU collective agreement.
Are Ontario Work Study Placement (OWSP) students part of this Union?
No. OWSP students do not belong to any union.
Who do the GAs/TAs report to?
They report to the Supervising Instructor. This is the individual who supervises the
Assistant. This individual may be a faculty member, instructor, Department Chair, or
School Director. Since lab monitors/advisors belong to this union the Supervising
Instructor may also be an administrative Senior Director, or an administrative
Do Graduate Assistants/Teaching Assistants have to be Ryerson students?
Yes. As the University’s graduate programs continue to grow and expand the goal of this
union is to provide work opportunities, within the University’s capacity, to Ryerson
students. Therefore, the collective agreement provisions are structured to give preference
and priority to Ryerson students for Assistantship opportunities before students of other
institutions and non-students.
Can I have a non-Ryerson student as a GA/TA?
Yes. The Collective Agreement provides for this flexibility. The parties agreed that from
time to time it may be necessary to hire non-Ryerson students when a qualified Ryerson
student is not available. In these cases, the Chair/Director are required to attest and
confirm that no qualified Ryerson student was available for the appointment.
Will the Supervising Instructor be involved in the grievance process?
A three-step grievance process exists. Step 1 involves the Supervising Instructor and
Chair/Director or administrative manager/supervisor handling the grievance. Step 2
involves the Faculty Dean/Senior Director. Step 3 involves the Human Resources
Department. The grievance process will be handled collaboratively and all individuals
representing the individual will have opportunity to voice their views, with the intent of
resolving the issue to all parties’ satisfaction.
Do I have to post the GA/TA work?
Yes and no. The University, within its sole authority, has the right to determine the work
available for discharge. The University has the right, within its sole discretion, to offer
Graduate Assistantships to first year graduate students and to Ryerson graduate students
who are not in their first year (except those in receipt of an external or internal
scholarship fellowship or stipend with a value of $15,000 or greater). This means that this
work is not required to be posted. Thereafter, the University is required to post available
positions and successful candidates are assigned work.
When do I post?
Each position vacancy that is identified prior to the beginning of the term or during the
first week of the term is required to be posted for five working days within the
Department/School. Thereafter, each position vacancy that is posted subsequent to the
first week of the semester is required to be posted for three working days.
Is there a priority sequence to hiring Assistants?
Yes there is. In order to meet both parties’ needs the parties agreed to a non-posting and
posting priority sequence. For the non-posted work priority is first given to Ryerson
graduate students entering their first year and then to Ryerson graduate students who are
not in their first year, excluding Ryerson graduate students who are in receipt of an
external or internal scholarship fellowship or stipend with a value of $15,000 or greater.
Thereafter, the priority sequence for the posted work is applicable. The order of priority
is as follows: Ryerson graduate students in receipt of an external or internal scholarship
fellowship or stipend with a valued of $15,000 or greater; Ryerson undergraduate
students enrolled in fourth year of a program; in exceptional circumstances Ryerson
undergraduate students enrolled in their third year of a program; external students and
seniored external applicants.
Can I hire first or second year undergraduate students?
No and yes. As we work towards creating a union for Ryerson graduate students the
parties agreed that first or second year undergraduate students cannot be hired. An
exception exists where first-year undergraduate students that were hired during the life of
the previous collective agreement may apply for assistantship vacancies from September
1, 2007 to August 31, 2008. These individuals will be considered after third-year
undergraduate students.
What does “exceptional circumstances” mean with respect to hiring third year
undergraduate students?
This means that third year undergraduate students can be hired in cases where the
position duties do not require expertise and knowledge of the academic course content.
What are “Seniored External Applicants”?
These are individuals who have previously worked as a GA or TA in the 2003-04
academic year, who are no longer students and have never been Ryerson students. These
individuals bring accrued seniority for work performed from the 2002 and 2003 academic
year to their application for Assistantships. They don’t have priority access to any
competition, but seniority may be used when all other qualifications are deemed
relatively equal.
Do I have to consider hiring criteria for the non-posted work?
Yes. The Chair/Director, in consultation with the Supervising Instructor, is required to
consider the following factors:
 Academic degree of the student
 Academic performance
Relevant experience
Previous evaluation as an Assistant at the University, if applicant
Areas of interest
Type of Assistantship requested by the student.
You should keep in mind that efforts should be made by the Chair/Director, in
consultation with the Supervising Instructor to try and match the GA with a Supervising
Instructor in the Graduate Assistant’s field of interest and according to the type of
Assistantship requested by the Graduate Assistant.
What information is required on the posting?
Wherever possible, the posting is to consist of the following information:
 Date of issue; duration of appointment
 Listings of each assistantship by title and, where possible, by course number
 Total number of assignment hours
 Where possible, timetabled days and hours
 Qualifications required for the Assistantship
 Date by which applications must be received by the appropriate department
 A statement outlining the candidate’s responsibilities when apply for the position
What criteria do I have to consider when assigning Assistantships for work that has
been posted?
The hiring criteria for posted vacancies is as follows:
Graduate Assistantship:
 Year enrolled in the program
 Academic status of the candidate, such that greater preference within the
Department/School is accorded in order of priority, first to Doctoral
Candidates, then Master’s Candidates
 Academic performance
 Relevant experience
 Previous evaluation of performance as an Assistant at the University, if
Teaching Assistantship:
Enrolment in the 4th year of a Ryerson undergraduate program
Overall academic performance at the B+ and above grade level
Successful completion of the specific course for which the teaching
assistantship is being offered at the B+ and above grade level
Relevant experience
Previous evaluations of performance as an Assistant at the University, if
Can I make up my own qualifications for the posting?
The Collective Agreement provides qualifications that ought to be included in your
posting, however, you do have the flexibility to include additional qualifications that you
require for the position. These qualifications must be reasonably related to the position
Can I confirm the applicant’s academic performance?
Yes. A Ryerson student who applies for an Assistantship, upon signing the University’s
application form, consents to the University validating his/her academic qualifications
through the University’s student records, for the purposes of the application. A nonRyerson student may be required to provide an original transcript if requested by the
Chair or the Dean.
Do I have to use TAGA to hire Ryerson Graduate Assistants for non-posted work?
No, you do not have to use the TAGA system to hire Ryerson Graduate Assistants for
non-posted work. The “reserved posting” feature of the TAGA system can continue to be
used for this purpose. The TAGA system allows you and the Ryerson Graduate student to
input information that can be used to produce the Workload Confirmation form, which
must be completed for all TA/GA hires. If the TAGA system is not used, then a
Workload Confirmation form must be separately produced and signed by all parties.
Can an applicant grieve a hiring decision with respect to the non-posted work?
Yes and no. An applicant cannot grieve a hiring decision with respect to the non-posted
work except in cases of discrimination based on a prohibited ground or a specified
improper motive.
Can a GA or TA grieve a job posting decision?
Any individual who holds seniority in the union can grieve an unsuccessful job
competition, however, an individual can’t grieve if the hiring decision is based on
seniority, unless the Union alleges improper motive or discrimination.
Can I hire the best-qualified applicant?
Yes you can. Seniority is only used with respect to work that has been posted and in
situations where applicants are deemed relatively equal, then the accumulated seniority
credits is the determining factor in the selection of the Assistant.
How is seniority calculated?
Assistants accrue one seniority credit for each semester worked, irrespective of the
number of weeks or hours worked.
Who is responsible for maintaining the Assistant’s seniority credits.
The Department is responsible. Normally the Departmental Assistant in the
Chair/Director’s office carries out this duty, and he/she will provide this information to
the hiring manager, when required.
Is seniority retroactive?
Seniority is retroactive to September 1, 2004.
Does an individual’s seniority credits lapse?
Yes. Seniority credits will lapse after three consecutive terms during which time there is
no employment relationship with the University as a GA or TA.
How long is the appointment time period?
It can start at any time throughout the thirteen-week semester.
Is there any limit to the amount of hours a GA/TA can work?
An Assistant can work normally an average of 10 hours per week over the three terms of
the academic year to a maximum of 130 hours per term or 390 hours per academic year.
Can an Assistant work up to 390 hours in one term and not work the remaining two
terms in the academic year?
No. An exception exists where a GA/TA can work up to 195 hours one term provided
he/she does not work more than 65 hours in each of the other two terms in the academic
year, for a total of 325 hours in the academic year. Normally, in other circumstances the
Assistant can work up to 130 hours per term. You can refer to the Collective Agreement
provisions in order to obtain the details in terms of the guidelines that have been
established in terms of the hours of work.
What is a contact hour?
A contact hour normally has a value of 32.5 regular work hours for a 13-week semester.
A contact hour for a laboratory session may include: the lab sessions; post lab marking;
student counseling; and meeting with the supervising instructor. A contact hour for a
tutorial may include: the tutorial sessions; marking of essays; assistance with the final
exam marking; and meeting with the Supervising Instructor. A contact hour is used to
determine how many hours an Assistant should be paid if they attend laboratory or
tutorial sessions, 1, 2, or 3 hours in duration. For example the guideline for one, two hour
lab is 65 hours (32.5 contact hours X 2 hours = 65 hours).
Do I have to follow the workload models outlined in the Collective Agreement?
The workload models provided in the Collective Agreement are for illustrative purposes
only and are intended to provide Chairs/Directors/managers and Supervising Instructors
with guidelines with respect to workload for the classifications mentioned above. These
examples do not limit your right to assign appropriate duties and hours of work in order
to meet your needs, subject to the maximum hours per term/academic year articulated in
the Collective Agreement.
Do Exam Invigilation hours count towards the maximum semester/academic hours?
Yes and no. If the Exam Invigilation duties are part of the Assistant’s workload then the
hours count towards the maximum. Individuals hired solely and exclusively to carry out
invigilation responsibilities and who hold a separate active appointment as a Graduate
Assistant will not have their appointments amended to include the additional Exam
Invigilator hours and these hours are not counted towards the maximum
semester/academic hours.
How do I go about assigning the duties to an Assistant?
The Supervising Instructor is to meet and discuss the assigned duties and obligations five
working days prior to the commencement of the appointment. At this meeting the
Supervising Instructor is to confirm the hours of work and the start/end date for the
Assistantship, the standard of performance expected and any other relevant details. The
“Workload Confirmation Assistantship Form” derived from TAGA can assist with this
Do I have to pay the Assistant for attending the meeting prior to their appointment
start date?
No. The meeting is held prior to the commencement of their appointment.
What happens if there any changes to the Assistant’s assigned duties?
When there are significant changes to an Assistant’s assigned duties/workload and this
impacts their total hours please make the changes on the existing Workload Confirmation
form (either found on the TAGA system or hard copy) and write “Revised” at the top of
the form (otherwise it may be processed as an additional assignment). The Revised form
needs to be signed and dated by all parties.
Do I have to pay for hours that I did not expect the Assistant to work?
No. Normally any hours worked beyond those specified in the appointment/workload
confirmation form require the prior written approval of the Chair and the Dean. You
should advise your assistant that written approval is needed if he/she believes they need
to work more hours to get the work done.
Am I responsible for providing any orientation/training to the Assistant?
Yes. Where it is necessary to have a WHMIS trained employee, the
Chair/Director/Supervising Instructor must ensure that the Assistant receives such
training. The Learning and Teaching Office, in consultation with the Human Resources
Department, provides the Assistant with a general orientation session normally at the
beginning of their appointment.
Can I provide the Assistant with Faculty specific orientation?
Yes, the collective agreement provides that each Faculty may conduct an orientation
program that is specific to the needs of each Faculty. This Faculty-based orientation
program may consist of a mandatory and an optional element. In this situation, the Dean
is required to provide the Union with a copy of the agenda of the orientation session. The
Learning and Teaching Office can assist Faculties in this regard.
Do I have to pay the Assistant for attending the orientation session?
Yes and no. You are required to pay the Assistant for any mandatory orientation sessions
he/she is required to attend in cases where his/her original contract does not incorporate
the additional hours for him/her to attend the orientation session. The University does
not pay an Assistant when he/she attends any voluntary orientation sessions.
Do I really have to evaluate the performance of Assistants?
Yes. The Chair/Director/Supervising Instructor is required to complete a performance
evaluation of the Assistant, once per semester, in accordance with the Performance
Evaluation ( found in the Collective
Agreement. The Director/Supervising Instructor is required to provide the Assistant with
a verbal mid-appointment feedback regarding his/her performance of their duties and a
completed evaluation form prior to the end of their appointment. The Supervising
Instructor is to discuss the performance evaluation with the Assistant and address any
concerns the Assistant may have with the evaluation.
But why do I have to fill out the evaluation? I don’t have the time!
The evaluation tool is easy to complete and should take you about on average 15 minutes.
It’s important that the Assistant knows how well he/she is performing and is provided
with the opportunity to address any concerns you may have. In addition, a selection
criterion in the job posting process is “previous evaluation of performance as an Assistant
at the University.” In order to assess the applicant’s against this criterion you will need
to have completed evaluations on file.
Who gets copies of the Assistant’s performance evaluations?
The Assistant, the Chair/Director, the Supervising Instructor, and the Union are to be
copied. The Chair/Director also needs to ensure that a copy is placed in the Assistant’s
file in the department/school.
What wage rate do I pay a Ryerson student who is hired as an Assistant?
The applicable wage rate you can pay a Ryerson student who is hired as an Assistant is
dependent on their academic qualifications.
A Ryerson student who is enrolled in the Master’s program will receive (Master 1 and 2
rate) $33.25 per hour for any hours worked from September 1, 2007 to August 31, 2008;
$35.25 per hour for any hours worked from September 1, 2008 to August 31, 2009; and
$37.50 per hour for any hours worked from September 1, 2009 to August 31, 2010.
A Ryerson student who is enrolled in the Ph.D. program will receive (Ph.D. rate) $36.25
per hour for any hours worked from September 1, 2007 to August 31, 2008; $38.25 per
hour for any hours worked from September 1, 2008 to August 31, 2009; and $40.50 per
hour for any hours worked from September 1, 2009 to August 31, 2010.
An Ryerson undergraduate student who is enrolled in the 3rd or 4th year will receive
(Category 1) $26 per hour for any hours worked from September 1, 2007 to August 31,
2008; $28 per hour for any hours worked from September 1, 2008 to August 31, 2009;
and $29 per hour for any hours worked from September 1, 2009 to August 31, 2010.
An Ryerson undergraduate student who is enrolled in the 3rd year to carry out non-course
related work will receive (Category 2) $15.50 per hour for any hours worked from
September 1, 2007 to August 31, 2008; $17 per hour for any hours worked from
September 1, 2008 to August 31, 2009; and $17.50 per hour for any hours worked from
September 1, 2009 to August 31, 2010.
What do I pay a Lab Monitor/Advisor?
Any individual (Ryerson or non-Ryerson student) is to be paid the Category 2 wage rate.
What do I pay a non-Ryerson student?
A non-Ryerson student, irrespective of the academic qualifications they possess, will
normally be paid the Category 1 rate. Departments/Schools do have the flexibility to pay
an alternate wage rate (the Master 1 or 2 rate or the Ph.D. rate) should they deem that
they require such qualifications in order to perform the Assistantship.
What do I pay “seniored external applicants”?
They are to be paid the Category 1 rates of pay.
Our departments hire individuals for a specific, limited period of time to solely and
exclusively proctor tests, midterms, and quizzes. What do I pay them?
You pay them the Category 2 rate of pay. Whereas, individuals who obtain an
Assistantship appointment and are required to carry out a number of assistantship duties
(such as tutoring, supervising labs, student counseling, etc.), including proctoring tests,
midterms, and quizzes, are to receive the appropriate wage rate according to the
guidelines articulated above.
What do I pay Distance Education invigilators who invigilate an exam off site,
normally outside Toronto, and where the student is responsible for finding someone
to invigilate their exam?
CUPE Local 3904 Unit 3 was certified for employees in the City of Toronto. These type
of DE invigilators would not fall within this union. In these cases, the hiring manager has
the flexibility to negotiate an appropriate payment for such services.
What do I pay an Exam Invigilator?
Graduate Assistants who have classroom exam invigilation duties as part of their
Graduate Assistant workload assignment (in addition to course related activities, such as
tutoring, supervising and demonstrating in labs, marking, etc.) are governed by the
relevant articles in the collective agreement for employees with Graduate Assistantships.
That is, they will be paid the applicable Masters, PhD or Category 1 rate of pay.
Graduate Assistants who receive separate appointments that only include Exam
Invigilation duties will receive $19.00 per hour for any hours worked from September 1,
2007 to August 31, 2008; $19.75 per hour for any hours worked from September 1, 2008
to August 31, 2009; and $20.25 per hour for any hours worked from September 1, 2009
to August 31, 2010.
Is there a grand parenting provision for Exam Invigilation pay rates?
Yes, the grand parenting provision applies to individuals who were hired during the 2004
– 2007 collective agreement as an Assistant and who obtained a separate Exam
Invigilation appointment and who were paid their Assistant wage rate for the Exam
Invigilation appointment. These individuals are entitled to maintain their (2007 – 2010)
Assistant wage rate (i.e. Master or PhD rate of pay) should they be active Assistants and
obtain separate Exam Invigilation appointments during the 2007 – 2010 Collective
Agreement time period.
How do I know which individuals are eligible to be grand parented with respect to
the Exam Invigilation pay rate?
Human Resources has provided your Department/Administrative Assistant in your
Department/School with individuals who are eligible to be grand parented with respect to
the Exam Invigilation pay rate. They can assist you in this regard.
Can I hire an undergraduate student to invigilate an Exam?
Yes and no. An undergraduate student can invigilate an exam if they hold an Assistant
position which includes exam invigilation duties. An individual who obtains an Exam
Invigilation appointment must be a graduate student.
Do I have to post Exam Invigilation vacancies?
Yes, the University is required to post all exam invigilation vacancies.
What is the priority sequence for hiring Exam Invigilators?
The priority sequence is as follows: first to Ryerson graduate students; then to nonRyerson graduate students; then external individuals with graduate degrees; and then
other appropriate individuals.
What criteria do I need to consider when I hire an Exam Invigilator?
You need to consider the following criteria:
 Enrolment in a Masters or Ph.D. programme
 Academic status of the candidate
 Academic performance
 Relevant experience
 Consideration of any previous evaluation of performance as an Exam Invigilator at
the University, if applicable.
Will Exam Invigilators be provided with appropriate training?
Yes, the Academic Integrity Officer provides a training session to Exam Invigilators
hired explaining their duties and responsibilities, and they are also provided a detailed
Invigilation Procedures document summarizing their responsibilities while invigilating.
Is the Exam Invigilation training paid time?
Yes, Exam Invigilators are paid for attending any required Exam Invigilation training.
What time does an Exam Invigilator have to arrive for an exam and when can they
Exam Invigilators are required to be at the exam location thirty minutes prior to the
scheduled examination start time so that they have sufficient time to be ready to carry out
invigilation related duties. They must also remain at the exam location thirty minutes
following the exam and carry out exam invigilation related duties. This is paid time.
Do I have to fill out a performance evaluation for an Exam Invigilator?
Exam Supervisors only need to complete a performance evaluation for Exam Invigilators
with an overall rating of unacceptable. The form takes a matter of minutes to complete
and can be found ( Copies of the
completed form are to be sent to the Exam Invigilator, Invigilator Supervisor, the
Academic Integrity Office, CUPE Local 3904, Unit 3 and the Invigilator’s official file.
Do I have to fill out time sheets?
Departments/Schools can choose to pay Assistants on an average hours basis or actual
hours basis. Departments/Schools are required to submit time sheets to the Payroll and
Attendance Unit, Human Resources Department, on a bi-weekly basis for all Assistants
For the average hours pay, an Assistant’s total appointment hours are divided by the
number of weeks in their appointment (please ensure that start and end dates of the
assignment are the beginning and end dates of weeks the Assistant started or ended
work). Only hours to be paid should be included on timesheets and no hours should be
indicated on statutory holidays. Departments/Schools must keep track of any exceptions
where Assistants are not eligible to receive payment and remove related hours from
averaged hours on timesheets, as necessary. Exceptions include unpaid leave of absence,
unpaid sick leave, early termination of contract, union leave days, etc.
For the actual hours basis, Departments/Schools are required to submit time sheets
indicating the actual hours the Assistant has worked.
Are Assistants entitled to paid sick leave?
They are entitled to 2 days of paid sick leave at their regular rate of pay, subject to proper
notification and appropriate proof of illness or injury in the form of a medical certificate.
Sick leave only applies to regularly scheduled classroom/laboratory contact hours.
Departments must keep track of any sick leave and ensure that any subsequent sick leave
days are unpaid and the hours are not included on the time sheet, in order to ensure
payment of the appropriate hours.
Are Assistants entitled to bereavement leave?
Yes, in the case of death in the immediate family an Assistant is entitled to three
consecutive days with pay. Based on the circumstances, the Supervising Instructor can
extend this period can be extended by two additional consecutive days.
What is the definition of immediate family?
Immediate family includes spouse, child, parent, brother or sister, grandparent, and
parent, brother, or sister in law. Depending the circumstances the Supervising Instructor
can include other related persons in this definition.
Are Assistants entitled to pregnancy leave?
Yes, under the Employment Standards Act a pregnant employee is entitled to pregnancy
of up to 17 weeks. The Assistant is required to provide their Supervising Instructor with
a medical certificate confirming the pregnancy and the probable date of delivery. In such
cases, the Assistant will be placed on a paid leave of absence of two months or less,
receiving their regular salary on each bi-weekly pay. Any leave beyond two months will
be without pay. The end date of the leave may not exceed beyond the end date of the
Assistant’s appointment. The medical note should be forwarded to your Human
Resources Services Advisor ( and
you should record hours to be paid for pregnancy leave on the time sheets.