Thank you to every single member who came out for breakfast and bargaining on Monday. We packed the room, and the Employer refused to even enter, citing the fire code. Nobody knows the last time the fire code was taken into account by the Employer when packing our classrooms with students—who often do not even have a chair to sit on and whose overflowing attendance generates no pay increase for our members—but when it comes to free, open, and fair collective bargaining, they use any excuse they can find to avoid meeting our membership face to face. The Employer suggested we reduce our numbers to 17 to accommodate their bloated and overpaid 13-member bargaining team; TSSU refused to leave a single member out of the bargaining session. Instead, every member present jumped into action to find a suitable location. After we had done so, the Employer went out for lunch instead of meeting us right away.
For our efforts we were rewarded with one hour and fifteen minutes of “bargaining” in which the Employer mostly corrected typos. On TSSU’s fundamental issues, the Employer proposed nothing meaningful. Worse, on major issues they took the exact problems we want to solve and tried to make them contract language. They proposed:
- Minor language changes to TA pay, which they explicitly said would pay TAs the same regardless of class size or mode of instruction.
- A cap on how many hours of work per week a TA appointment could demand, except when it matters: there would be no limit on the amount of marking required during midterms and finals.
- Moving backward by withdrawing their meaningless proposal to form a committee to discuss a pension plan for ELC/ITP instructors, instead proposing a discussion (!) on an RRSP plan.
Obviously, these “proposals” do not meaningfully address our core demands for a Cost of Living Adjustment, Stopping Wage Theft, and ensuring a Better Future for our instructors.
Addressing the amount of overwork that our members do requires changing both the compensation model to account for class sizes and new forms of instruction, as well as addressing the power imbalance between graduate student workers and their supervisors. This requires the creation of enforceable rights, and the Employer’s pathetic attempt at drafting new language falls a long way short of that.
More insultingly, their suggestion that we discuss a RRSP plan again falls short of our demands for a full pension plan for Sessional and ELC/ITP instructors. RRSPs are subject to the whims of the market whereas pensions allow workers to earn a secure income in their retirement. After decades of work, faculty at SFU just won back a pension and traded in their RRSPs. Instructors deserve the same. A “discussion” is not a tangible proposal that can be bargained at the table.
Finally, their bargaining team admitted (once again) that they haven’t done the actual work of costing their own proposals. However, they were happy to push the (incorrect) rhetoric that any changes to our compensation model (or even an extra office) would be costed against our General Wage Increases (GWI). This is insulting for two reasons; (i) our proposals address overwork that is already happening and falls outside of a GWI, and (ii) the GWIs are paid by the provincial government, and not SFU.
The Employer still hasn’t received the message that our members demand better and aren’t backing down. Bargaining will continue on Wednesday September 20 in the MBC Forum Chambers and Monday Sept 25 in the SUB Ballroom. TSSU will return to work stoppages and pickets if we do not reach a tentative agreement at this session.