Final Offer Selection – Frequently Asked Questions

1. What happens if we reject the Arbitration offer?

The proposals listed in point 6 of the MOA (both SFU and TSSU proposals) would be returned to the bargaining table (i.e. not withdrawn). TSSU would continue to strike (withholding grades), as well as discussing other ways to pressure the employer into a reasonable settlement. We would return to the bargaining table to try and find a way to reach agreement with the Employer. Benefits would be cancelled by November 1st, except for those benefits the Union is able to afford to pay for. The TSSU argues that we can pay for some but not all. The Employer says that we must pay for all. Eventually the Labour Relations Board would have to make the final decision.

2. What happens if we accept the Arbitration offer?

The Strike Committee will advise you when strike activity will cease; that could come as soon as October 29th. The grades for this semester would be entered into the system or provided to course instructors as usual. The process for returning last semester’s grades is outlined in a Back to Work agreement (which only applies if TSSU members approve this MOA). Starting on October 29th, TSSU and SFU Administration would commence a 21 day period of bargaining. If any issue remains outstanding at the end of that period, (November 18, 2015), they will be decided by Final Offer Selection, Arbitrated by Vince Ready.

3. What is Final Offer Selection (FOS)?

FOS is a type of arbitration, it’s a binding process to resolve a dispute. What makes FOS unique is that the arbitrator chooses a proposal from either the employer or the union, but cannot craft a “middle ground”.

 

4. If we stop job action, how do we pressure meaningful bargaining before the FOS arbitration?

Even though job action would cease, we still have lots of tools at our disposal to pressure the process. We can hold demonstrations, invite observers to bargaining, and continue to get the word out in a multitude of ways in order to hold the process accountable.

5. What is the point of the “bargaining period”?

Knowing that there is an arbitration at the end of the time frame can often pressure one side or the other to reach agreement in advance of the referral to arbitration. It is conceivable that all issues will be resolved, thus precluding the need for an arbitration. At a minimum we should see some narrowing of the issues, bringing us closer to agreement.

6. What does the actual arbitration involve?

The party making the proposal will have to make a written submission. The party answering will make a written reply. Following these submissions the arbitrator will decide either to accept one package or the other, or to pick issue by issue from each position.

7. Why is the Contract Committee and the Strike Committee recommending this?

  • As the FOS Arbitrator, Vince Ready, said when he proposed this process: “bargaining has not gone well with these parties following 16 months of negotiations along with two mediation efforts.” Our progress thus far in bargaining has been small, despite tremendous efforts by our members to withhold grades over two semesters.
  • We believe that we can reasonably expect the same or better outcomes from FOS, as if we continued to bargain. However, the cost of losing benefits, and potentially being locked out, must be weighed against any potential gain we can make by bargaining and job action versus this arbitration route. If our employer had conducted themselves more reasonably in the bargaining process, we would have achieved a fair settlement by now.
  • The government wage guidelines (which have ruled throughout all of the government funded public sector to date) mean that the monetary settlement is going to be completely insufficient to address inflation and the monetary situation of our members, no matter what route we take to a settlement. This means that there is little to be gained, and much to lose if we just simply go back to the bargaining table, without an end to the process in sight.

8. If we say yes, what happens to the grades from the summer?

We have negotiated a back to work agreement. In that agreement it sets out how the grades will be accessed by the members, and that you are to be paid for any work you have to do to ensure that the grades are entered.

9. What else does the back to work agreement do?

It protects you from any consequences occurring for you as a result of engaging in strike activity, and allows us to ensure the orderly processing of grades, either through your input, or through giving them to the employer to deal with, should that become necessary.

Solidarity with TSSU floods in after SFU Administration Threatens “Economic Weapons”

On October 5th, TSSU received notice from SFU Administration that they would cease our members’ benefit plans as of October 31, 2015. This is a cynical effort to pressure TSSU into accepting a process forward that could potentially leave us without a collective agreement, while foregoing our members’ striking power and suffering financial penalties.

We were not the only ones who saw this as a deplorable move on behalf of the Administration. Since this announcement, we have received support from around the SFU community and Canada.

Letters of Solidarity:

At the Thursday October 8 Convocation for the Faculty of Applied Sciences, the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology & the Faculty of Health Sciences, Honorary Degree recipient and former TSSU Contract Committee member Sut Jhally called on SFU Administration to find a quick resolution:

*French Translation Below

Des preuves de solidarité envers le TSSU affluent suite aux menaces de l’équipe administrative de SFU concernant l’utilisation « d’armes économiques. »

Ce lundi 5 octobre dernier, le TSSU a reçu un préavis de la part de l’équipe administrative de SFU annonçant le retrait de ses contributions financières à l’égard de nos régimes d’avantages sociaux à partir du 31 octobre 2015. Cette annonce représente un effort cynique tentant de pousser le TSSU à accepter un processus d’arbitrage qui pourrait, en plus de nous laisser sans convention collective et sans pouvoir de grève dans le future, faire en sorte que nos membres subissent de graves sanctions financières.

Nous ne sommes pas les seuls à avoir perçu cette mesure de notre employeur comme étant déplorable. En effet, depuis ce communiqué, nous avons reçus plusieurs formes de support.

Lettres de solidarité :

  • Lettre de soutien de l’Association canadienne des professeurs et professeures d’université (Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT))
  • Lettre de soutien de l’Association des facultés de l’université Simon Fraser (Simon Fraser University Faculty Association (SFUFA))
  • Lettre de soutien de membres du corps professoral de l’université Simon Fraser

De plus, ce 8 octobre, lors de la collation des grades de la Faculté des Sciences Appliquées, de la Faculté de Communication, Art et Technologie et de la Faculté des Sciences de la Santé, Sut Jhally, récipiendaire d’un doctorat honorifique et ancien membre du Comité des Contrats du TSSU, a vivement recommandé l’équipe administrative de SFU de trouver une solution, et ce rapidement.

 

TSSU Win at the Labour Relations Board

On August 21, TSSU was pleased to receive the ruling from the Labour Relations Board (LRB) dismissing SFU Administration’s Unfair Labour Practice Complaint as moot. In their complaint, the Employer argued that the Union was failing to bargain in good faith. Specifically, the Administration complained that the Union had set preconditions on returning to bargaining, despite the fact that TSSU continued to attend bargaining sessions well after having allegedly set these preconditions. Given those ongoing discussions, TSSU was surprised to receive notice of the Employer’s complaint, and suspected it was actually a strategy to further delay bargaining. The LRB agreed with the TSSU’s perspective, and on August 21st resoundingly rejected the Employer’s assertion. LRB Vice-Chair Jitesh Mistry dismissed the complaint, and affirmed that not only was the Administration’s complaint “moot,” but also that pursuing the case would be a “distraction from bargaining.” SFU Administration’s decision to file this complaint at the LRB shows their ongoing commitment to stall bargaining and increasing anxiety about the TSSU’s escalating job actions.

TSSU and SFU are in mediation Sept 2 – 4th at the LRB and your Contract Committee will keep you updated as the days unfold.

June 3 Bargaining Update: 1 Year Bargaining Anniversary!

The TSSU and the SFU Administration met at the bargaining table today, one year after the TSSU tabled our first positions. After signing three minor changes to the Collective Agreement, we discussed three of the key issues that our members identified in our last survey: bringing our Health and Safety language in line with BC New and Young Worker Regulations; ensuring that our members are paid in accordance with BC law; and improving access to TA and TM work for graduate students.

The Employer argued that graduates’ access to work was “not an issue” for our members. They stated that they were not willing to move from their current position on Health and Safety, and did not respond to our proposal on timely payment of wages.

Speaking for the Contract Committee, Karen Dean stated: “We are anxious to get to a collective agreement now, not months from now, and we’re keen to get that without having to resort to serious industrial action. If the University wants to get an agreement, they know how to get it, and it will have to involve addressing these key issues.”

The Contract Committee made it clear that our members are frustrated by the slow pace of bargaining, and that progress on the key issues that our members have identified will be necessary to secure a Collective Agreement. The Employer ended bargaining abruptly at 2:30 p.m.

February 2015 Bargaining Update: “If you want to get something in the Collective Agreement, you’ll have to give up something”

TSSU met with the Employer on January 22nd for the 12th bargaining session since our collective agreement expired in April 2014. The employer has yet to table all of their proposals, despite having originally promised to do so by early June. This repeated stalling mimics their behaviour during the last round of bargaining, which the employer prolonged to over 29 months.

Where the Employer has responded, they have only been willing to deal with proposals that bring us in line with current BC Law. However, their counter-proposals consistently take us below the Employment Standards Act and Health & Safety regulations of BC.

The Employer’s theme of the January 22nd session was “quid pro quo,” where they repeatedly insisted that TSSU was going to need to give something up in order to get the minimum legal requirement of the Employment Standards Act. What the Employer is offering is nothing but concessions for all of our membership.  If TSSU agreed to proposals that are worse than our current Collective Agreement, it would do our membership and the students they teach a serious disservice by taking away teaching time and increasing class sizes. We need to find realistic solutions to the reduction of teaching resources at SFU, and the Employer is offering only to reduce them further.

The parties had a particularly disturbing conversation in the afternoon about the employer’s plan in the event of job action. The employer expressed its concern over how it was “going to deliver its product to students,” going on to characterize SFU as a business.  This entire discussion did nothing to get us closer to signing a new collective agreement, instead pushing the two sides further apart.

The next scheduled bargaining dates are Feb 12th and 19th. Contact tssu@tssu.ca if you wish to be an advisor to bargaining and see the process for yourself.