SFU’s all-or-nothing package stalls bargaining

Last week, TSSU reaffirmed our commitment to the bargaining process by agreeing not to picket the 50th Anniversary celebrations on Wednesday in exchange for VP Academic Jon Driver taking over as Chief Spokesperson for SFU Administration. Because SFU Administration could not come to the table on Wednesday, they committed to provide proposals via email during the day. SFU Administration did not provide the promised proposals, and came to the table Thursday morning with an all or nothing package of issues designed to sidetrack bargaining.

Of TSSU’s proposals, SFU Administration showed verbal interest in the following:

  • expanding access to internet accounts from 1 to 3 semesters. This, for example, would allow Sessional Instructors to keep their email thoroughout the length of a grade appeal,
  • delivering TSSU members’ work-related mail to their place of work, important for members who work away from their home department,
  • clarifying that the Intellectual Property Policy of SFU applies to TSSU members’,
  • beginning a process to find shared space for TSSU and other employee groups to meet with their members at Surrey and Vancouver campuses,
  • establishing payment of wages provisions in the Collective Agreement to guarantee members’ rights to timely and understandable wage statements as required by BC Employment Law,
  • delivering money from TSSU’s Childcare Bursary into the hands of parents

On each of these issues, TSSU has moved significantly from our opening positions to accomodate the concerns of SFU Administration while protecting our members. On Thursday Morning, SFU Administration responded with a counter-offer on these six issues, asking us to remove our informal problem solving mechanism with Department Chairs and their designates by involving Human Resources at each step.

SFU Administration has proposed that TSSU call HR’s Director of Labour Relations every time a member brings union representation to a problem solving meeting (the same Director who has been stalling bargaining with TSSU for 16 months). This proposal would end TSSU’s practice of respecting the right of Department Chairs to choose when to involve Human Resources, and has been tabled without any explanation for its necessity.

85% of the problems brought to the union by our members are solved without Human Resources’ intervention. The remaining 15% of problems are pushed toward arbitration by Human Resources, costing the Union and the University thousands of dollars.

SFU Administration is telling TSSU that they will only provide the basic necessities required for members to complete their work if we undermine Department Chairs, stall our grievance process, and expand the portfolio of Human Resources. This is the third time SFU Administration has tried to package this cynical proposal, in an attempt to force us to capitulate. This is not the behaviour of an Employer who wants to get to a deal.

TSSU Pickets on First Day of Classes; Celebration of Solidarity Tomorrow

This morning, TSSU members welcomed students to the first day of classes and marked the beginning of SFU’s 50th year with picket lines around the Applied Sciences Building.

We saw great solidarity from members who stood on the line, from CUPE staff who stood shoulder to shoulder with us, from students who refused to enter the ASB, and from Faculty Members who cancelled classes.

The picket and our other planned actions for this week compelled the Employer to come back to the table. Your previous commitment to grade withholding and solidarity throughout the strike also resulted in a change to the SFU Administration contract negotiators. Today was the first day that VP Academic Jon Driver met with TSSU, bringing not only actual decision making power, but also a change in tone. Under this new leadership, SFU Administration finally offered a substantive response to several of our core issues, and we received verbal support for our fix to the childcare fund, which aims to get money into the hands of parents.

Both sides agreed to spend Wednesday caucusing and exchanging proposals via email, with face to face discussions recommencing at 9:00 am on Thursday. We need to continue showing strong solidarity so SFU Administration follows up Tuesday’s talk with concrete proposals on Thursday. All available members are asked to meet tomorrow, Wednesday September 9, for a Celebration of Solidarity at the following times and places:

  • Celebration Kickoff: Please meet us in the TSSU office (AQ 5129) by 11am and wear your red shirt (we’ll have some on hand if you don’t have one yet).
  • Materials and Prep: Stop by the office between 12:30 and 4:00 pm to help us prepare materials and signage.
  • Red Shirt Solidarity: Meet us in front of Strand Hall at 4:30 pm for a group activity to show solidarity – red shirts will be provided!
  • Strand Hall: Meet us in front of Strand Hall at 5:30pm for the rest of the evening’s activities. If you can, bring bike lights, head lamps, or any fun light-up materials you might have for when it gets dark.

Sept 8 ASB

Prospect of Picket Lines Brings VP Academic to the table

The prospect of pickets during SFU’s 50th anniversary celebration and your solidarity in “marking for education, not administration” has caused significant movement. The VP Academic, Jon Driver, has agreed to takeover as Chief Spokesperson for SFU Administration. We will enter into continuous bargaining starting at noon on Tuesday September 8th. Mediator Vince Ready will join the process on Friday Sept 11 and is available throughout the weekend as well.

As a result of negotiations throughout today, we have agreed to change our picketing plans, and will no longer be picketing on Wednesday Sept 9. Here’s an outline of next week’s job action:

“Marking for Education” continues, for those who did not teach in the summer, you can find the instructions here: http://strike.tssu.ca/marking-for-education/ and more stickers are available in the office.

  • Tuesday Sept 8 Morning: Pickets will commence as scheduled at 7:30am around the Applied Sciences Building and continue until noon. Please see below for clarifications about this picket.
  • Tuesday Sept 8 Afternoon: Your contract committee will commence bargaining with VP Academic Jon Driver as SFU Administration’s spokesperson and bargaining will continue through the weekend.
  • Tuesday Sept 8 5:00pm: join the Greater Committee meeting at 5:00pm in AQ 5049 to help plan the next stages of job action.
  • Wednesday Sept 9 Evening: There will no longer be picket lines, instead join us outside Strand Hall from 5:30 pm-9:00 pm for the TSSU Celebration of Solidarity.
  • Thursday Sept 10: Join TSSU at the Week of Welcome to try your hand at sessional snakes and ladders, pin the collective agreement on Starfleet Captain A. Petter, and more.
  • Friday Sept 11: All members are welcome to join TA/TM day at Halpern Centre and the social afterwards starting at 4:30pm in the Highland Pub. Mediator Vince Ready will join the bargaining process at 9:00am
  • Saturday Sept 12 & Sunday Sept 13: Your contract committee is available for continued mediation throughout the weekend.

Mediation adjourned by Labour Relations Board – Strike Action Continues

Two of three possible days in mediation at the Labour Relations Board have resulted in no progress at the bargaining table. Your Contract Committee is disappointed that our willingness to move toward settlement was not acknowledged or reciprocated by SFU Administration.

Despite the overwhelming solidarity shown by TSSU members during the ongoing grade withholding, SFU Administration has still not addressed TSSU’s core issues at the table. Your Contract Committee believes that a public show of collective power is urgently needed at this stage of bargaining.

Your Contract Committee will be dedicating the next week to mobilizing members and supporters in preparation for picket lines at the Applied Sciences Building on the morning of Tuesday, September 8th, and the Academic Quadrangle on the evening of Wednesday, September 9th. We will see you on the picket line.

TSSU Strike brings SFU Administration to the Bargaining process

Thanks to the pressure from TSSU members withholding grades, SFU Administration has finally agreed to respond in detail to each of TSSU’s proposals, including our core issues and to attend mediation at the Labour Relations Board. We need to keep up the pressure so SFU Administration comes to mediation ready to bargain.

In an email to TSSU, VP-Academic Jon Driver stated that SFU Administration will, in writing, provide TSSU with “a clear statement about any problems we see with the Union’s proposal(s), a rationale for our position, and a statement about areas of agreement and/or where we could move closer to satisfying the Union’s interests.” In its own written statement, TSSU will compile its earlier responses to SFU Administration’s proposals.

These documents will be exchanged by the 18th of August, in preparation for mediation at the BC Labour Relations Board on September 1st-4th. Though SFU Administration previously attempted to use mediation to prevent TSSU members from striking, it is no longer using this strategy. Since we are currently on strike, mediation will not interfere with grade withholding or any subsequent escalation of job action.

In 2012, mediation at the Labour Relations Board did not lead to significant progress because we were not in job action. It took sustained job action and pickets to finally bring SFU Administration to the table to bargain. SFU Administration’s new commitment to provide detailed and reasoned responses to our proposals demonstrates the effectiveness of our current job action.

As this round of bargaining has shown, our members’ collective action motivates SFU Administration to bargain. Exercising our power through grade withholding has brought SFU Administration to address our core issues, and continued pressure will be necessary for us to reach an equitable collective agreement.

TSSU forces SFU Administration to back down

TSSU is happy to report that today after a tough morning of negotiations with the Employer, we have signed off on the first significant article in this round of bargaining. After TSSU’s representative repeatedly explained our stance on the significance of seniority rights for ELC/ITP workers, the Employer’s bargaining team reassessed their concessionary position and agreed with a TSSU proposal. ELC/ITP workers will be able to access seniority starting after their 9th week, as opposed to the 13th week in our previous Collective Agreement. Signing off on this issue represents the first substantive change in the Employer’s stance. TSSU sees this as evidence of the success of our members’ job actions in putting increased pressure on the Employer.

The major disappointment of the day occurred in the early afternoon. When our representative attempted to discuss guaranteeing graduate student access to TA and Sessional work, the Employer’s spokesperson interrupted her over and over, blocking her from making her arguments while the Employer’s whole committee was in the room. Before TSSU had the opportunity to make these points, the academic member of the Employer’s bargaining team had to leave. Contrary to the commitment from the VP Academic that there would “always be someone with academic experience at the bargaining table,” and that if their “regular academic bargaining team member” were unavailable, “someone with comparable experience” would be present as an alternate, TSSU was disappointed to learn from the Employer that no other faculty member would be joining us for the remainder of the day. TSSU had planned to discuss our full set of proposals regarding two issues: access to TA, TM, and Sessional positions for graduate students; and a number of outstanding concerns regarding our ELC/ITP proposals. Since our experience has shown that these conversations are fruitless without the presence of faculty advisors and ELC/ITP managers, their absence effectively ended the afternoon.

Though TSSU informed the Employer of our full availability throughout the rest of the summer, the Employer responded that they could not meet before the last two weeks of August. This means that the next bargaining dates will overlap with exam period and the deadline to submit final grades. Since the contract negotiations are clearly a low priority item for the Employer until the end of the term, grade withholding will be more important than ever in the coming weeks. TSSU’s Contract Committee sends thanks and congratulations to members for the solidarity they continue to show throughout this strike.

SFU Administration Sets Bargaining Preconditions

The TSSU contract committee and a number of TSSU members acting as advisors met today to bargain with the Employer. We were looking forward to making progress at the table today, and during the morning we were hopeful that we might make strides forward. Before breaking for lunch, the Employer’s representative committed to coming back with an answer on one of our outstanding issues, the childcare bursary.

However, once we returned in the afternoon, the Employer’s spokesperson informed us that they objected to our bargaining process. Because of the Employer’s repeated attempts to coerce and intimidate our members engaging in grade withholding and other job actions, the TSSU declined to provide the names of our advisors attending bargaining. This choice is in line with the mutually-agreed upon bargaining protocol agreement, and TSSU felt this was the best option to protect our members in this highly contentious labour environment.

Unfortunately, the Administration’s spokesperson reacted with vitriol, dismissing our concerns as “absurd.” This tirade is in stark contrast to the VP Academic’s letter sent to the SFU community, which recognized the significance of respecting our members’ legal right to strike. Regardless of this procedural disagreement, the Union sought to continue with discussions and introduced new signing sheets to that effect. The Employer’s representative repeatedly refused to respond to these issues, saying that he would not take a position for the university until the TSSU would provide advisor names, thus setting a precondition for bargaining.

By setting these prerequisites for their engagement at the table, the Employer is again attempting to stall meaningful discussions. TSSU is optimistic that the Employer will have reassessed their position before our next bargaining session tomorrow morning.

New Job Action: Marking for Education not Administration

On July 15 and 16 TSSU members voted overwhelmingly to authorize strike and picket action. Last night, the Strike Committee decided to return to “Marking for Education not Administration.” All assignments submitted after 11:59 pm on July 21st (today) will be subject to this job action. The goal of this action is to build pressure to get us to a Collective Agreement that addresses our core issues.

Full instructions and a message to communicate to students are available below. Here’s a summary of what you may and must not do.

During this job action you may:

  • Mark assignments due before July 22nd using your normal procedure
  • Continue to provide verbal and written feedback, as long as this feedback does not communicate the mark received via any quantifiable means, including a letter grade, score, percentage, etc.
  • Inform students if they have failed an assignment or exam

During this job action you must not:

  • Record marks for any assignments or exams subject to this job action* via physical or electronic means available to the employer
  • Communicate marks or grades for any assignments or exams subject to this job action* to students or the Course Supervisor
  • After July 21st, participate in group marking outside SFU’s regular business hours of 8:30am-4:30pm Monday to Friday, unless the Course Supervisor has obtained prior approval from the TSSU Strike Committee.
  • After July 21st, record marks on any exams being group marked, instead record them on a coversheet as per the Group Marking Instructions.

* Except for group marking (see additional instructions), the only assignments and exams covered by this job action are those which were due after 11:59 pm on July 21st, 2015. For full details, see the Frequently Asked Questions document below

Our goal is to get a fair and reasonable collective agreement, and we will need the support of the campus community to achieve that. Please encourage your students to visit support.tssu.ca to find out ways they can get involved. One simple and easy thing they can do is email SFU President Andrew Petter at sfu_pres@sfu.ca.

If you have any questions or concerns you can contact TSSU via:
email: tssu@tssu.ca
TSSU office: 778.782.4735
helpline: 604.652.6202

Documents and Instructions

SFU Administration tries to prevent TSSU from striking. Again.

Today, SFU Administration requested that TSSU agree to mediation at the Labour Board. This process can take months. Under BC Labour Law, a union cannot serve strike notice or commence strike action during mediation unless their employer has agreed otherwise in writing.

Trusting that this offer was made in good faith, TSSU provided SFU Administration a letter of agreement to protect our members’ right to strike during mediation. SFU Administration refused our offer and cancelled bargaining for July 9th. We have previously scheduled bargaining dates on July 22 and 23, and we need a strong “yes” strike vote and collective action from our members to put the pressure back on to achieve a fair Collective Agreement.

Other news from the table today:
SFU Administration’s committee has added a new faculty member, so we began bargaining with a brief recap of our core issues. They had no new responses or questions on our core issues, and reiterated their position on payment of wages—still less than the protections provided under the Employment Standards Act.

In the afternoon, we signed three short proposals, lifted from Articles with larger outstanding issues. They regard (#1) union representation on the central health and safety committee, (#2) marking guidance provided to TAs, and (#3) access to TA or TM work for members with partial Graduate Fellowships.

Agreement in principle was originally reached on (#3) two years ago, as part of the efforts of the Joint Committee of Faculty, TSSU members, and representatives from Human Resources. It has finally been signed.

Members’ pressure secures two extra July bargaining dates

As we reported on June 26th, the Contract Committee is seeking additional bargaining dates in July. Last week, we informed the Employer that we were available for three full weeks, including weekends and Canada Day. Thanks to pressure from ongoing strike action, they have agreed to two additional dates: July 9th and 23rd.

Your Contract Committee is hopeful that these dates will feature meaningful discussion of each of our core issues. We also hope to generate further dates in July in order to quickly conclude a collective agreement.

Members are encouraged to attend as advisors: email kdean@tssu.ca if you want to see bargaining in action on July 8th, 9th, 22nd, or 23rd!