Thank you to all the members that attended bargaining this week. On February 1 we packed the room, filling every seat and showing our collective power. On both days, the employer offered virtually no proposals or counter-proposals, instead using the time to correct typos and make insignificant changes—wasting everyone’s time and money.
In opening remarks, TSSU condemned SFU’s stalling, delays, and refusal to comply with the Voluntary Recognition Agreement and RA arbitration decision—to call it by its name, union busting. We have been bargaining for RA’s since March 2021 and for all other job categories since November 2022, but have seen little else than deliberate time wasting by the Employer. We explained how graduate student workers have to skip meals to make ends meet between insufficient wages and skyrocketing rents, and thus the urgency to get to a fair Collective Agreement. After nearly an hour in caucus, the Employer’s only response was to say, “we heard you.”
Over the two days of bargaining, TSSU again explained necessary improvements to the Base Unit system to account for the increased workload of TA’s and rein in ballooning class sizes that make TA work harder and students’ education poorer. The Employer’s response was riddled with errors in the simple math required to determine Base Units. The Employer’s spokesperson continued to waste time by spending a considerable time asking basic questions that, by their own admission, had already been answered about the base unit model and stat holidays, and making vague suggestions instead of presenting concrete proposals. When prompted to counter, the Employer’s response that “we are not sure we are there yet” was especially galling because we had already gone over these proposals last year. Further, the Employer refused to address concerns on bullying and harassment at off campus sites, intellectual property, and employment evaluation for RA’s—provisions that have all been identified as important to RA’s.
In terms of financial support, TSSU reiterated our proposal for guaranteed funding offers of $32,000 for graduate students beyond the cost of tuition as the minimum, in alignment with the demands of the Grad COLA coalition. In response, the Employer’s spokesperson argued graduate funding offers are outside the scope of bargaining entirely, despite the fact that the Collective Agreement already includes University financial support of its graduate students. Further, the Employer refused to entertain any annual cost of living adjustments. TSSU also tabled monetary proposals for all members that include cost of living wage increases, a pension plan for Instructors, improvements to benefits, plans for retroactive pay and more.
Through its delays and inactions, the Employer has made it clear that they have no intention of meaningfully bargaining with us. They also said they only hope we will have a contract for RAs and TAs by this time next year, despite the fact that the last Collective Agreement expired in April 2022, and RAs have been waiting to be included in the Collective agreement for 1176 days since SFU recognized that RA’s are part of our union.
TSSU members need a contract now! We can’t wait another full year for wage increases and benefits. In bargaining this week, the message delivered was clear: TSSU will not tolerate delays, obfuscation, and denials any longer.