You Be the Judge: Sessional Proposals

On April 13th, 2015, the Employer posted and emailed broadly throughout the community a “sessional” update, borrowing the TSSU headline of “Job Security and Fairness for Sessional Instructors.” The post appears to be in response to an explanation that the TSSU gave its members (March 23, 2015). Both are posted below for your reference.

In contract negotiations, the rights set out in the Collective Agreement come down to the words on the page, and the ability to enforce them. Many are asking why there is such a discrepancy between how TSSU sees the Sessional discussions at the bargaining table and how the Employer reports it.

You should be the judge of which proposal delivers on the promise of “Job Security and Fairness for Sessional Instructors.”

TSSU has tabled a full Sessional proposal: 1) to better reflect the workload that comes with larger classes by paying more money or appointing TAs; 2) to provide basic employment seniority rights for successful teachers; 3) to require that a Sessional be provided with a copy of relevant policies and procedures; 4) to set aside a percentage of Sessional positions within each department for graduate students, and graduate students could, just like now, compete for the other positions as well as earning seniority rights that they can use after they graduate; 5) to automatically progress Sessionals to “Lecturer” positions after a certain number of sessional appointments.

There are other proposals that are important to teachers—protection of intellectual property rights, for example—but we have explained in the past that, without a seniority system to guarantee a measure of job security, Sessionals have little if any ability to enforce their rights under the collective agreement because anyone who insists on those rights will simply find themselves out of work.

Among its many proposals for TAs, the TSSU has also repeatedly stated that we have to address the fact that 25% of all TA/TM appointments are going to candidates who are not Graduate students, which is a failure of the system because those appointments are specifically designed to provide funding as well as teaching experience to Grads. Some departments have created systems that do deliver work to Graduates, though, so the TSSU has proposed that SFU should use those “best practices” across the University.

The employer, on the other hand, has tabled a proposal that they claim is motivated by the need to give more work to Graduate students, but it would (allegedly) give them work in the form of Sessional appointments. Sessional work, though, is very time consuming, so it pays less per hour than TA/TM work. Nevertheless, they have told us that they are not interested in changing how access to TA/TM work is done, and will instead focus on their Sessional proposal.

So, let’s look at their latest proposal with two questions in mind. First: is more Sessional work for Graduates a real solution? Your contract committee does not think it is, and we addressed this problem in our March 23rd, 2015 post. Second: does this proposal actually provide an enforceable way to give Sessional work to graduates, or is it a thinly veiled effort to remove what little rights Sessionals have attained over the years? Your contract committee thinks that it is, and in the comment boxes below, we’ve explained why.

(In proposals, words struck out are to be removed, and words in underline/bold-face are to be added.)

Sessional SFU 1Sessional SFU 2

For comparison, here are the employer’s claims their proposal would do:

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