As of September 11, 2015, the employer has made no proposals that would yield significant improvements for TSSU members. Instead, many of their proposals seek to remove rights and protections our members currently have. Unions characterize proposals which take things away from members as concessions. Below is an outline of the employer’s current proposed concessions. For more information on an individual concession, please click on it.
Entire Union Concessions
- Eliminate all benefits, replace with small pay in lieu
- Off-load administration of the childcare fund onto the TSSU
- Don’t give TSSU members a collective agreement
- Require every TSSU member to call HR’s lead negotiator, Chris Hatty, every time they want to solve a work problem
ELC / ITP Concessions
- Lengthen the time before a temporary positions gets considered for conversion to continuing
- Lengthen time before a new instructor gets onto the seniority list
- Increase the length of the standard work week to 45 hours / week
- Increase the length of the standard work year
- Kick instructors off the layoff list as soon as possible
- Cut sick leave by at least 40%
- Remove personal leave
- Reduce ELC /ITP right to bargain
- Increase the amount of time for the annual step increase
TA, TM and Sessional Instructor Concessions
- Eliminate TA/TM Priority for graduate students in “non-funded” programs
- The employer has refused to table language on this item and TSSU considers it not properly a part of bargaining. Tabling language on this item would constitute a receding horizon.
- Remove the current limited rights of return for Sessional Instructors
- Remove the consideration of merit based scholarships from TA/TM priority
- Give the Employer a way to avoid the per-student pay for TMs
Eliminate all benefits, replace with small pay in lieu
The employer has signalled its “intention of converting [benefit plans] to pay in lieu of benefits.” This proposal could include MSP coverage and extended health and benefits available all union members. Even if the entire current cost of benefits to the employer were converted to “pay in lieu,” it would result in less than a 2% pay bump for members, while the loss of MSP coverage would cost a member $288.00 / semester for a single, $522 /semester for a couple and $576 / semester for a family. The loss of benefits is a straight up concession that takes substantial amounts of money from the pockets of members.
Off-load administration of the childcare fund onto the TSSU
In recent years the employer has complained of the difficulty in administering the childcare fund. Instead of working with TSSU to solve some of the administrative problems, the employer has now proposed to transfer all of the work of administering the fund to the TSSU. The contract committee estimates this transfer of work would result in costs of tens of thousands of dollars per year to the union. These costs would have to covered either by taking money out of the childcare fund or by increasing dues on all members. This is a monetary concession that would have significant impact on the entire union, who would foot the bill for the employer’s unwillingness to fulfil the administrative role they agreed to.
Don’t give TSSU members a collective agreement
Currently Collective Agreements must be distributed by the employer to all members. This ensures that members have access to the rights and benefits and also signals to the employee that the CA binds both the employer and the employee. Members who prefer electronic copies can, of course, have the option of returning their copies to the department for reuse. The requirement to distribute collective agreements to members was recently confirmed by TSSU’s victory in a grievance with the employer. The employer now wants to only have to distribute a link to the collective agreement via email and only have physical copies of the collective agreement available through contacting HR. We know members won’t be willing to contact HR in order to get Collective Agreements. This concession would result in additional costs and work for the union to distribute Collective Agreements and a reduction in the ability of members to access their rights.
Require every TSSU member to Call HR’s lead negotiator, Chris Hatty, every time they want to solve a work problem
Our members solve problems with their supervisor every day, be it changing tutorial due to class conflict or arranging substitution in the event of a conference. The employer has recognized that “85% of problems get solved without HR hearing about it” and they see this as a problem. To solve this “problem” the employer has proposed that TSSU members be required to personally contact Chris Hatty every time they want to solve a problem relating to their work. This means every rearrangement of duties, every discussion about overwork, every discussion of an issue related to TSSU employment would require a personal notification to Chris Hatty. An employee who failed to notify Chris Hatty could be subject to discipline. This concession would completely remove TSSU members’ and the TSSU’s ability to solve problems with departments. It would mean HR would interfere in the 85% of problems that are solved every day without their intervention. This concession is really about trying to prevent TSSU from finding on–the–ground solutions that work for departments and our members.
ELC / ITP Concessions
Lengthen the time before a temporary positions gets considered for conversion to continuing
In the current Collective Agreement (CA), if a temporary ELC /ITP instructor is appointed for more than 2 consecutive terms the employer must consider whether they need to make a new continuing position. Unlike continuing instructors, temporary instructors receive no health or dental benefits, so the conversion is extremely important to instructors. The employer has proposed that instructor positions not be reviewed for conversion to continuing unless they work more than 40 consecutive weeks, effectively having to work all 8 of 8 ELC terms per year. Since many current continuing instructors are laid off for one or two semesters a year, this means no temporary instructor will ever meet this 40 consecutive week threshold. This creates a trap that temporary instructors will never be able to get out of. This concession means that, as continuing employees retire and leave over time, the entire program will eventually be converted to temporary instructors. This would turn the ELC/ITP program into a program being 100% run by contingent labour. The TSSU believes this concession outlines the long term goal of the ELC/ITP administration, which would like to see their program run entirely by sessional-type instructors with minimal rights and greatly reduced pay and benefits.
Lengthen time before a new instructor gets onto the seniority list
Currently ELC/ITP instructors get on to the seniority list after they are rehired for a 2nd term of work. The employer has proposed that instructors have to wait for 3 terms before they are put on the seniority list. This is a straight reduction in the rights of seniority of these workers.
Increase the length of the standard work week to 45 hours / week
Currently, full time work in the ELC/ITP program is 15 contact hours, which corresponds to the SFU standard 35 total hours of work per week. Above 17 contact hours worked, corresponding to a regular 40 hour work week, overtime rates apply. The employer has proposed that the threshold for overtime pay start at 21 contact hours, which corresponds to 49 hours of work per week. This concession means that ELC/ITP members would be below the minimum standards of the employment standards act, which states overtime starts at 40 hours worked per week.
Increase the length of the standard work year
The length of the standard work year defines the threshold required for ELC/ITP members to receive health, dental and many other benefits. The current threshold is 42 weeks worked per year, the employer has proposed that this be increased to 48 weeks worked per year. Since the program runs on 6 8 week terms, this means members would have to work all year in order to ensure they received benefits and would be unable to take a real vacation, besides the couple of days off between terms. The employer has claimed that this change is not meant to have no impact on benefits, but has not produced any evidence to that effect. We can only consider the words we have in front of us, and those words are a straight concession that will remove benefits and sick leave from many instructors.
Kick instructors off the layoff list as soon as possible.
Enrolment in the ELC/ITP program fluctuates so many instructors find themselves laid off frequently. Currently employees stay on the laid off list for 2 years and are able to maintain their seniority date while on the laid off list. The employer has proposed to reduce the laid off list time to 1 year and if instructor on the laid off list is offered any work and turns it down for any reason, then they would be removed from the laid off list. This concession allows the employer to eliminate many senior members from the program by offering them a position that is simply unreasonable. For example, they could call the employee up in the evening and offer them work for 8 am the next morning. If the employee said no, they would lose their seniority and essentially be “fired” from the position they had held for, in some cases, decades. This is an enormous concession that essentially gives the employer free reign to get rid of any employees they choose.
Cut sick leave by at least 40%
Since the first collective agreement, employees in the ELC/ITP program have received 60 total hours of sick time per year, prorated for part-time workers, which can be take either as full days or in hourly chunks, whichever results in more sick time for the employee. The employer has proposed this be reduced to 36 hours per year for full time employees. This reduction comes in concert with a recent increase in the daily contact hours to a maximum of 6 per day. This concession means the previous sick leave, which is described as 12 full days of sick time, would in fact only be worth 6 full days for a cut of 50%. Whichever formula you choose, the reduction in sick time is enormous and a significant concession.
Remove personal leave
Since the ELC/ITP schedule prevents instructors from taking real vacations, many instead choose to take an unpaid personal leave for part of a semester in order to take a vacation with their family. A typical scenario would see an instructor taking half or quarter of a term off every couple of years in order to take a vacation. The employer has proposed that instructors only be able to take unpaid personal leaves in increments of a whole term, so an instructor would have to go 8 weeks without pay just to take a two week vacation. An instructor who takes a whole term off would also not meet the current minimum threshold of 42 weeks worked per year in order to qualify for benefits. This concession would make it financially impossible for instructors to take the time off necessary for a reasonable quality of life.
Reduction of ELC /ITP rights to bargain.
Currently up to 4 ELC/ITP members are permitted to get paid time to be part of TSSU’s bargaining committee. This paid time ensures that ELC/ITP members do not lose out on seniority or other benefits while helping to negotiate a new collective agreement. Currently the language also specifies that the union be credited with twice the cost of the paid time for bargaining and be debited for the paid time off. This extra credit helps ensure the TSSU has the resources to cover the costs of ELC/ITP members attending bargaining outside of their normal work hours. The employer has proposed that the number of ELC/ITP employees be limited to 2, instead of 4, and that TSSU pay half the cost of the substitute plus half the cost the bargaining team member pay. The employer has proposed we go from a case of the employer crediting the union at the cost of the bargaining time, to a situation where the TSSU has to pay the department at the cost of bargaining time. This concession increases costs on the union -while reducing the ability of ELC/ITP members to participate in bargaining. Given the employer’s past bargaining, this concession could result in additional costs to TSSU in excess of a hundred thousand dollars for a bargaining round of the length of the 2010-2012 bargaining round.
Increase the amount of time for the annual step increase
In the last round of bargaining, TSSU and the employer agreed to equalize the time between step increases on the salary grid for ELC and ITP at 36 weeks. This means that as long as employee works 6.5 / 8 terms in ELC, they would receive step increase. Its important this value is less than a full work year because many instructors are laid off for a term or two each year as enrolment fluctuates. The employer wants to increase the time to get a step increase to 40 weeks. This is a monetary concession that means some employees will lose out on their salary increases.
TA, TM and Sessional Instructor Concessions
Eliminate TA/TM Priority for graduate students in “non-funded” programs
The employer attempted to propose that graduate students in an ill-defined set of “non-funded” programs would no longer have access to TA positions. These students would instead fall outside of the priority system and, because they are paid at a higher rate than external and undergraduate TAs, would likely never get work. The employer has refused to be specific beyond saying the words “unfunded.” The employer has refused to table language on this item and TSSU considers it not properly a part of bargaining. Tabling language on this item would constitute a receding horizon.
Remove the current limited rights of return for Sessional Instructors
Successful sessional instructors currently have a limited right of return called the right of first refusal (ROFR). The employer has proposed that only graduate students be able to attain and hold ROFR, and only while they are “actively engaged in classwork at SFU.” Because of the nature of ROFR, which typically takes years to attain, it is highly unlikely that any Sessional Instructor would ever attain ROFR after this change. The Employer is really proposing that they be given free reign to “fire” any successful sessional, by simply not offering another appointment. This concession is designed to eliminate the limited rights of return while cynically appearing to offer graduate students some new right that they can never actually attain.
Remove the consideration of merit based scholarships from TA/TM priority
In the last round of bargaining the TSSU and the employer agreed that, when selecting between two otherwise equal candidates, the one with no support from merit based scholarship should have priority. The TSSU now wants to clarify this language to note that the merit based scholarship must have at least the value of a full TAship, but the employer has proposed completely eliminating the language. The elimination of the language would allow the employer to choose to hire a graduate student with a full Tri-Council scholarship, which may pay in excess of $10,000 / semester, over a graduate student with absolutely no funding. This concession reduces the fair distribution of TA funding amongst graduate students.
Give the Employer a way to avoid the per-student pay for TMs
Tutor Markers are paid on a a per-student basis, whereas Teaching Assistants are paid on a contact hour basis. This difference recognizes that the work in a course with a distance component is primarily driven by the number of students. The employer has proposed that only workers teaching a course that is online AND run by the Centre for Distance Education is paid on a per-student basis. This would allow the employer to claim that a hybrid type course, where 99% of the content is online, but only a small component of the course, such as one hour of tutorial per semester, is in person does not count as a TMship paid per enrolled student. Instead, this course would count as a TAship and the worker would be only entitled to a fraction of a base unit for the course. In light of the move towards hybrid courses, this concession would completely eliminate the TM language and the pay per student formula.