Update #6: Learning Commons Facilitators to Vote whether to Join TSSU + Half-day Bargaining on Sessional Instructors

Facilitators in the Student Learning Commons have signed union cards, and will vote this Wednesday whether or not to join the TSSU! The Contract Committee looks forward to working as a united voice to advocate for better working conditions for all teaching support staff on SFU’s campuses. After this news reached SFU’s Chief Negotiators during bargaining on Thursday June 6, SFU Administration adjourned negotiations and the next scheduled day of bargaining, Thursday, June 13, 2019 was also cancelled. Bargaining resumes Tuesday, June 18, in West Mall Complex 2533 at 9am.

Before adjourning last Thursday, TSSU’s bargaining committee detailed our proposals for Sessional Instructors. Our proposals build on the successes of sessional seniority gained in the last round of bargaining in order to:

  1. Guarantee a mentorship system for student and post-doctoral fellows who are hired to sessional reserve positions, and reduce the workload by allowing team-teaching;
  2. Improve Sessionals’ working conditions by ensuring compensation for curriculum development, increases in class size, and professional development;
  3. Create one-year sessional positions and form a hiring pool of long-serving teachers that faculty can promote to Continuing Faculty Positions.

These proposals, if accepted, will end the cycle of precarious academic labour that keeps teachers locked out of benefits, security, and the academic life of the university. At the same time, hiring the long-serving teachers who already work here will ameliorate SFU’s struggles with faculty recruitment. By providing a way to earn a year-long appointment, sessionals will be able to plan their futures; departments will be able to assign non-teaching work, such as supervision or curriculum development, to sessionals as part of their paid duties.

Expanding faculty mentorship for sessional positions that are reserved for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows will ensure that these positions are effective in training future teachers. Not only does this offer a meaningful opportunity to learn from an experienced teacher, but it improves the class for both students and instructors.

In our current proposal, at least ten (10) Continuing Faculty Positions will be created each year to be filled from a pool of sessionals who have each worked at SFU for six (6) years or more. Recognizing the importance of the university faculty reflecting the diversity of the university community, members in equity-seeking groups will be included in the pool after four (4) years of teaching. From this pool, faculty hiring committees can choose who to hire, a practice that reflects the norms of faculty hiring more broadly, while using university funding TSSU members fought for.

TSSU has now presented in detail each of our proposals to SFU’s Administration for TAs and TMs, ELC/ITP instructors, and Sessional Instructors. Our members constantly face precarious working conditions, and a part of this process has been highlighting the unnoticed costs of precarity to the university, students, and teachers themselves. We outlined our expectations on monetary proposals, such as wages and benefits. We have not begun negotiating those proposals in detail, and questions of university housing, compensation including class size limits, wages, medical benefits, and the childcare fund, are still outstanding. For any questions on the contract committee’s proposals, or to arrange a meeting in your department, email tssu@tssu.ca

Update #3: 3 on 3

In today’s sunny negotiations, TSSU clarified our proposed changes to the contract’s general articles, including a new Staff and Member Development program and job posting. We also amended our TA and Sessional Instructor proposals to protect our contract from being undercut by changes to SFU’s Postdoctoral Fellows policy and secured agreement on three minor changes to our contract.

TSSU is proposing a comprehensive training article, which will guarantee that our members receive workplace orientation and opportunities for professional development. TSSU’s proposal would deliver paid training to all members, both when hired and throughout their time at SFU. TSSU members provide half of the in-person teaching at SFU, and building on existing training programs will improve the experience of students and the broader community.

One common theme for TSSU’s proposals is expanding best practices throughout the university; TSSU is asking that expected contact hours or base units be added to postings, so applicants have an idea of the amount of work they’re applying to do. We also request that applicants are notified if they don’t get a job. We secured a single posting date for all TA and TM jobs in the last round of bargaining, which simplified the timeline for people who work in multiple departments, and resulted in more jobs for graduate students. We think similar benefits could apply to sessional instructors, so now we’re asking for these jobs to be posted at the same time each semester.

Before the end of the day, TSSU secured agreement to three minor changes to our contract – changes which do not alter our rights, but do make them more clear. Next week, the committees meet on the 14th in Burnaby and the 15th in Vancouver (Harbour Centre) where TSSU will make our case for proposed changes for TA’s, Sessional Instructors, and ELC/ITP Instructors. We await a complete set of proposals from SFU Administration, but in the meantime we encourage members to share our updates, email with any questions, and attend bargaining to get the immersive, 3D, surround-sound experience of contract negotiations!

Update #2: Questions & Cuts

TSSU’s contract committee, members, and allies met with SFU Administration on April 11 in our second negotiation session for a new collective agreement. TSSU’s contract committee asked clarifying questions on SFU Administration’s proposals, which have the effect of: shrinking graduate student TA work and associated compensation by 20% through a modification to our priority system, increasing ELC/ITP instructors’ workloads without pay, and erasing sessional instructor job security and promotion language from our collective agreement.

TSSU’s Contract Committee responded: “We’re not just going to sit down and take significant cuts to each portion of our membership.” Reaffirming our intention to negotiate a collective agreement that improves our working conditions, we highlighted the needs of TSSU members: stability instead of precarity, and compensation that matches decades of steadily increasing workloads. SFU Administration spent most of the day sorting our proposals into those with costs and those without, before asking a few clarifying questions about our positions.

Over the next month, your contract committee will be publicizing our proposals more widely, including on the bargaining website, so bookmark this page or add it to your RSS feed. The next negotiation is scheduled for May 8th on Burnaby campus and TSSU expects to hear clarifying questions from SFU Administration on our proposals. To attend, email tssu@tssu.ca

We’ll also be at other events to chat with members about the bargaining process and get feedback on TSSU and SFU Administration’s proposals:

MARKING PARTY! TWO DAY MARK-A-THON
Wed & Thu, April 17 & 18
10am to 3pm
AQ 5009

MEET YOUR CONTRACT COMMITTEE SOCIAL
*Burnaby session!
After Day 1 of Mark-a-thon, Wed, April 17
4pm – 6pm
Club Ilia, Cornerstone, SFU Burnaby

*Surrey session!
Wed, April 24
5pm to 7pm
Central City Pub, Surrey

(Vancouver session to come in May)

TSSU DAY: Summer Welcome BBQ & SFU Labour Walking Tour
Friday, May 10
12:30pm to 3:30pm (walking tour starts at 1:30pm)
Location: TBD, SFU Burnaby (we will update as soon as we confirm)

We hope to see you at one or more of these events. We can’t win anything at the bargaining table unless all of us work together! To get involved, come to the events or general membership meetings, stay informed, and let other TSSU members know what’s happening. Full details on TSSU’s proposals are available for any member to review in the union office on Burnaby campus: AQ5129, or email tssu@tssu.ca if you’d like to meet with a contract committee member – we’ll come to you! You can also email TSSU anytime with questions, or invite the contract committee to department or caucus events (we will bring donuts & coffee! 😉 ).

Update #1: Bargaining begins

TSSU’s Bargaining Committee met with SFU Administration Wednesday in the first session of negotiations for our new Collective Agreement. We began the day by stating, “We are here in solidarity as workers in different groups, united by a common thread: we all toil in precarious jobs.” As each side outlined their goals for the new contract, TSSU delivered a comprehensive package of proposals that ensures:

  • Protection against overwork for Teaching Assistants
  • Job security for Sessional Instructors
  • Equity in benefits for language instructors in ELC/ITP
  • Paid professional development for all TSSU members

The spokesperson for the Administration offered “a modest set of proposals” that broadly outlined their plans. Administration’s goals include reducing TA base units for graduate students, removing job security for sessional instructors, and increasing ELC/ITP instructor workloads without additional pay. TSSU is waiting for clarification on the Administration’s other proposals, which we expect to receive before our next session on April 11th.


TSSU did secure Administration’s agreement in principle on two of our proposals: to replace the contract’s gendered pronouns (her/his) with gender-neutral pronouns, and to move the ELC/ITP articles from an appendix and into the main text of the contract. Both TSSU’s and the employer’s proposals are available in the TSSU office (AQ 5129) for any member to review, and members are welcome in bargaining sessions. Please email tssu@tssu.ca for more information.

Solidarity,

Your Contract Committee