Update #7 SFU Administration explains delay in negotiations:

On June 27, 2019, over thirty members of TSSU joined the Contract Committee at SFU Surrey for negotiations with SFU Administration. Responding to TSSU’s observation that negotiations have been going three months with little progress, SFU Administration argued that our proposals require extensive research and consultation. Citing their workload as cause for delay, SFU Administration continues to stall negotiations. 

SFU Administration’s lack of action delays improvements in our working conditions and our students’ learning conditions. TSSU has now presented our proposals twice; Administration has been made aware of our members’ needs, and we have proposed ways to solve the problems our new contract must address:

  • TAs are working without pay because contracts contain too little time for preparation and training: in our last membership survey, 48% of TAs reported that they worked over their hours without compensation;
  • Sessional Instructors are “always temporary,” are not compensated for numerous aspects of their work, including new course development and directed studies supervision, and new instructors receive little to no mentorship or training;
  • More than half of the instructors in the ELC/ITP programs are “temporary,” despite years of service at SFU; they receive no sick leave nor other benefits, nor step increases in pay.

SFU Administration has promised to make counter-proposals that address our members’ issues, but has yet to deliver. We also await responses to several questions, including some involving discrepancies in budgetary data provided by SFU Administration to the Union. Two bargaining dates remain before Fall classes start: July 26 at Harbour Centre in Vancouver, and August 22 in Burnaby. 

When asked about past freezes, including the last round of bargaining in which SFU Administration blocked improved benefits for ELC/ITP instructors, Administration admitted that they had the money, but that their hands were tied by the Provincial Government Mandate. We know, though, that similar workers at UBC have received substantive improvements in the past, under the same mandate. After years of freezes, the new Provincial Government Mandate allows for “conditional and modest funding that can be used to drive tangible service improvements.” 

During June, TSSU also took part in the Provincial Government Budget Process,  to try to deal with the employer’s current allocation of resources, outlining how we need the government to mandate changes in three areas: precarity, housing, and tuition. The high costs of precarious work and housing, from working sick to declining mental health, are borne by workers, students and the public healthcare budget, and the government has the power to ameliorate the situation by mandating increases in continuing positions over temporary ones, allotting more student housing, and freezing tuition.

This was the sixth negotiating session, after the previous two sessions were cancelled by SFU Administration. We are bargaining downtown at the Vancouver Harbour Centre Campus on July 26th; the agenda includes proposals for the English Language and Culture, and Interpretation and Translation program instructors, and fresh proposals integrating rights and working conditions of our newest members, facilitators in the Student Learning Commons, into the Collective Agreement.

 To attend all or part of the day, email tssu@tssu.ca or call the office at (778) 782 4735.

Update #6: Negotiations “Postponed” – Time to Mobilize!

June 18th’s bargaining session has been postponed by SFU Administration. Since bargaining was adjourned at noon on June 6th, two bargaining sessions in a row have been cancelled by SFU Administration with less than 72 hours notice. TSSU has already presented our proposals in detail, and we await responses and questions from SFU Administration; in the meantime, we need you to help us motivate Administration to bargain! Here are four things you can do to help over the next 10 days:

  1. June 18 mobilization day: Burnaby Campus AQ 5135 from 10am-5pm; on Surrey Campus in SUR 351 10am-4pm. If you can spare 30 minutes, drop by and talk about what’s going on and help inform other members!
  2. Power Building School: Thursday June 20, we have a series of workshops at Vancouver Campus HC 1315 9:30-5:00pm; register here https://forms.gle/C9bVXP5FyePvpowz6
  3. June 27 Bargaining: Come see negotiations in person! We’re in Surrey (SUR 2740) from 9:30-4:30pm, followed by the Stewards Meeting at 4:30 (SUR 5140)
  4. Schedule a department meet and greet: find a time and place, we’ll bring coffee and snacks; ask us about anything related to bargaining! Ask your steward(s) to help arrange a time or email contract@tssu.ca

On June 27, we’ll be back at the bargaining table to demand action on members’ five key priorities for this bargaining round:

  • equity in pay benefits, and conditions for our members; including fixing broken pay statements.
  • better support for instruction including paid training & class size limits;
  • job security for long-term teachers including a path to continuing faculty positions;
  • better work for students including addressing TA/TM overwork, removing equivalencies, ensuring time off for thesis/dissertation defenses, and obeying the Employment Standards Act;
  • strengthening our union by streamlining the grievance procedure and more.

The contract committee will continue to assert our members’ demands in negotiations with SFU Administration, but it is only through collective power that we’ll be able to improve our working conditions. Attend bargaining, hear other members’ needs, share this update; every action to build solidarity increases our strength at the bargaining table.

Update #5: Learning Commons Facilitators to Vote whether to Join TSSU + Half-day Bargaining on Sessional Instructors

Facilitators in the Student Learning Commons have signed union cards, and will vote this Wednesday whether or not to join the TSSU! The Contract Committee looks forward to working as a united voice to advocate for better working conditions for all teaching support staff on SFU’s campuses. After this news reached SFU’s Chief Negotiators during bargaining on Thursday June 6, SFU Administration adjourned negotiations and the next scheduled day of bargaining, Thursday, June 13, 2019 was also cancelled. Bargaining resumes Tuesday, June 18, in West Mall Complex 2533 at 9am.

Before adjourning last Thursday, TSSU’s bargaining committee detailed our proposals for Sessional Instructors. Our proposals build on the successes of sessional seniority gained in the last round of bargaining in order to:

  1. Guarantee a mentorship system for student and post-doctoral fellows who are hired to sessional reserve positions, and reduce the workload by allowing team-teaching;
  2. Improve Sessionals’ working conditions by ensuring compensation for curriculum development, increases in class size, and professional development;
  3. Create one-year sessional positions and form a hiring pool of long-serving teachers that faculty can promote to Continuing Faculty Positions.

These proposals, if accepted, will end the cycle of precarious academic labour that keeps teachers locked out of benefits, security, and the academic life of the university. At the same time, hiring the long-serving teachers who already work here will ameliorate SFU’s struggles with faculty recruitment. By providing a way to earn a year-long appointment, sessionals will be able to plan their futures; departments will be able to assign non-teaching work, such as supervision or curriculum development, to sessionals as part of their paid duties.

Expanding faculty mentorship for sessional positions that are reserved for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows will ensure that these positions are effective in training future teachers. Not only does this offer a meaningful opportunity to learn from an experienced teacher, but it improves the class for both students and instructors.

In our current proposal, at least ten (10) Continuing Faculty Positions will be created each year to be filled from a pool of sessionals who have each worked at SFU for six (6) years or more. Recognizing the importance of the university faculty reflecting the diversity of the university community, members in equity-seeking groups will be included in the pool after four (4) years of teaching. From this pool, faculty hiring committees can choose who to hire, a practice that reflects the norms of faculty hiring more broadly, while using university funding TSSU members fought for.

TSSU has now presented in detail each of our proposals to SFU’s Administration for TAs and TMs, ELC/ITP instructors, and Sessional Instructors. Our members constantly face precarious working conditions, and a part of this process has been highlighting the unnoticed costs of precarity to the university, students, and teachers themselves. We outlined our expectations on monetary proposals, such as wages and benefits. We have not begun negotiating those proposals in detail, and questions of university housing, compensation including class size limits, wages, medical benefits, and the childcare fund, are still outstanding. For any questions on the contract committee’s proposals, or to arrange a meeting in your department, email contract@tssu.ca

Update #4: Back to Back

On May 14 and 15th TSSU gave a more detailed overview of our proposals for TAs and ELC/ITP, which are summarized below. Our bargaining team was buoyed by over a dozen members, including nearly half of the instructors in the ELC program. We believe SFU Administration was taken aback by the member support as well as the data we provided, both of which demonstrated the need for our proposals. Sessional Instructor proposals remain to be discussed in depth, and TSSU members are encouraged to attend bargaining on June 6 on Burnaby campus to hear that discussion; email contract@tssu.ca for details.

On ELC/ITP instructor issues, TSSU began by asking questions posed by instructors: How are the negative effects of years spent as “temporary” instructors without security “costed” by SFU Administration? How does the lack of vacation, sick leave, and other rights denied to many ELC/ITP instructors figure into SFU’s budgetary priorities? TSSU then outlined our solutions: make all current instructors continuing, to allow them to earn eligibility for benefits; create a teaching year divided into 40 weeks in the classroom, 8 weeks of non-classroom work (“duty weeks”), and 4 weeks of vacation. To keep SFU Administration from increasing workloads, we also proposed a cap on class size.

When we turned to SFU Administration’s proposals we asked how their changes accomplished what they said they would accomplish; for example, TSSU asked how making appointments conditional upon enrolment could guarantee work for teachers or provide job security; how increasing required workload for no extra pay was guaranteeing salary, and how separate seniority lists provided either security for teachers or harmony and a better workplace. We asked what a longer probationary period for temporary or part time teachers would solve. None of our questions received direct answers, and on its face the contract language SFU Administration has provided only reduces current rights.

SFU Administration claimed there was a shortage of money; TSSU found their own 2017-18 community report, which proclaims increased revenue flowing into SFU’s budget from ELC/ITP. The numbers show revenue has increased substantially over the last 5 years, but more of the expenses are going to an undefined “others” category, in addition to the “overhead allocation” and administrative costs of the program. TSSU made it clear that the rights and benefits others enjoy at SFU, including other TSSU members, such as basic sick leave (which temporary teachers at ELC/ITP do not enjoy), must be provided in the new contract. We also demonstrated that all of our proposals provide a better way to solve the problems that SFU Administration has identified in the department, than their own.

For TAs and TMs, TSSU started by outlining our key bargaining goals: protecting against overwork, ensuring a fair compensation system, improving work for graduate students, and preparing for blended classrooms by merging TAs and TMs into one job category. Achieving these goals requires different parts of the Collective Agreement to work together, and TSSU outlined that interconnection to SFU Administration through some key proposals including:

  • creating a confidential overwork fund so TAs can be paid for overwork without risking their standing in their department;
  • changing the pay formula to increase compensation conditions with heavy workloads, including: lab courses, writing intensive courses, large class sizes, and blended classrooms;
  • eliminating “equivalencies” that pay TAs in some departments less than others for the same work;
  • implementing basic Employment Standards to protect people currently required to work eight hours straight without a break; and
  • ensuring time off from work around thesis defenses and qualifying exams.

We backed up these proposals with analysis of data we receive from SFU Administration, our members’ survey responses, and anonymized time use guidelines (TUGs). For example, despite a 1990 promise to decrease tutorial sizes from 17 to 15, the average tutorial size remains at 17; this promise accompanied a reduction in paid hours at the time, which has contributed to overwork. In our survey, 48% of TAs reported they had overworked and had not sought the compensation they were owed. TUGs show over 60% of TAs are not allocated time to attend TA/TM day or other pro-D training despite having this right, and some lab TAs are being allocated as little as 36 minutes / week to prepare.  

Later, SFU asked clarifying questions about TSSU’s proposals around TAs, which TSSU provided, or will provide at future sessions. We still await a full response from SFU Administration on our proposals, which are necessary to meet the triple purpose of TA work as labour necessary to the University, teaching experience for graduate students, and financial support for graduate study.

Upcoming Summer Bargaining sessions

The summer sessions will be on:

  • May 14 – WMC 2533, Burnaby,  caucus 8:30 am at  WMC 2533
  • May 15 – Harbour Centre 2945 (Management Studies Lab), Vancouver caucus 8:30 am at HC 2945.
  • June 6 – WMC 2533, Burnaby,  caucus 8:30 am at WMC 2533
  • June 13 – WMC 2533, Burnaby,  caucus 8:30 am at WMC 2533
  • June 18 – WMC 2533, Burnaby,  caucus 8:30 am at  WMC 2533
  • June 27 – SUR 2740, Surrey,  caucus 8:30 am at SUR 274

Email us at tssu@tssu.ca for attending any of the bargaining sessions

You can get involved and have your voice heard by:

  • Telling others that TSSU is renegotiating our collective agreement.
  • Send us an email tssu@tssu.ca or call 778-782-4735 us with a question you have about bargaining!
  • Invite us to your caucus meetings or departmental events to talk about bargaining. We will bring donuts, coffee and swag!
  • Come to TSSU events and meetings! See tssu.ca/calendar/ for details

Update #3: 3 on 3

In today’s sunny negotiations, TSSU clarified our proposed changes to the contract’s general articles, including a new Staff and Member Development program and job posting. We also amended our TA and Sessional Instructor proposals to protect our contract from being undercut by changes to SFU’s Postdoctoral Fellows policy and secured agreement on three minor changes to our contract.

TSSU is proposing a comprehensive training article, which will guarantee that our members receive workplace orientation and opportunities for professional development. TSSU’s proposal would deliver paid training to all members, both when hired and throughout their time at SFU. TSSU members provide half of the in-person teaching at SFU, and building on existing training programs will improve the experience of students and the broader community.

One common theme for TSSU’s proposals is expanding best practices throughout the university; TSSU is asking that expected contact hours or base units be added to postings, so applicants have an idea of the amount of work they’re applying to do. We also request that applicants are notified if they don’t get a job. We secured a single posting date for all TA and TM jobs in the last round of bargaining, which simplified the timeline for people who work in multiple departments, and resulted in more jobs for graduate students. We think similar benefits could apply to sessional instructors, so now we’re asking for these jobs to be posted at the same time each semester.

Before the end of the day, TSSU secured agreement to three minor changes to our contract – changes which do not alter our rights, but do make them more clear. Next week, the committees meet on the 14th in Burnaby and the 15th in Vancouver (Harbour Centre) where TSSU will make our case for proposed changes for TA’s, Sessional Instructors, and ELC/ITP Instructors. We await a complete set of proposals from SFU Administration, but in the meantime we encourage members to share our updates, email with any questions, and attend bargaining to get the immersive, 3D, surround-sound experience of contract negotiations!

Update #2: Questions & Cuts



TSSU’s contract committee, members, and allies met with SFU Administration on April 11 in our second negotiation session for a new collective agreement. TSSU’s contract committee asked clarifying questions on SFU Administration’s proposals, which have the effect of: shrinking graduate student TA work and associated compensation by 20% through a modification to our priority system, increasing ELC/ITP instructors’ workloads without pay, and erasing sessional instructor job security and promotion language from our collective agreement.

TSSU’s Contract Committee responded: “We’re not just going to sit down and take significant cuts to each portion of our membership.” Reaffirming our intention to negotiate a collective agreement that improves our working conditions, we highlighted the needs of TSSU members: stability instead of precarity, and compensation that matches decades of steadily increasing workloads. SFU Administration spent most of the day sorting our proposals into those with costs and those without, before asking a few clarifying questions about our positions.

Over the next month, your contract committee will be publicizing our proposals more widely, including on the bargaining website, so bookmark this page or add it to your RSS feed. The next negotiation is scheduled for May 8th on Burnaby campus and TSSU expects to hear clarifying questions from SFU Administration on our proposals. To attend, email contract@tssu.ca

We’ll also be at other events to chat with members about the bargaining process and get feedback on TSSU and SFU Administration’s proposals:

Wed & Thu, April 17 & 18
10am to 3pm
AQ 5009

*Burnaby session!
After Day 1 of Mark-a-thon, Wed, April 17
4pm – 6pm
Club Ilia, Cornerstone, SFU Burnaby

*Surrey session!
Wed, April 24
5pm to 7pm
Central City Pub, Surrey

(Vancouver session to come in May)

TSSU DAY: Summer Welcome BBQ & SFU Labour Walking Tour
Friday, May 10
12:30pm to 3:30pm (walking tour starts at 1:30pm)
Location: TBD, SFU Burnaby (we will update as soon as we confirm)

We hope to see you at one or more of these events. We can’t win anything at the bargaining table unless all of us work together! To get involved, come to the events or general membership meetings, stay informed, and let other TSSU members know what’s happening. Full details on TSSU’s proposals are available for any member to review in the union office on Burnaby campus: AQ5129, or email tssu@tssu.ca if you’d like to meet with a contract committee member – we’ll come to you! You can also email TSSU anytime with questions, or invite the contract committee to department or caucus events (we will bring donuts & coffee! 😉 ).

Update #1: Bargaining begins

TSSU’s Bargaining Committee met with SFU Administration Wednesday in the first session of negotiations for our new Collective Agreement. We began the day by stating, “We are here in solidarity as workers in different groups, united by a common thread: we all toil in precarious jobs.” As each side outlined their goals for the new contract, TSSU delivered a comprehensive package of proposals that ensures:

  • Protection against overwork for Teaching Assistants
  • Job security for Sessional Instructors
  • Equity in benefits for language instructors in ELC/ITP
  • Paid professional development for all TSSU members

The spokesperson for the Administration offered “a modest set of proposals” that broadly outlined their plans. Administration’s goals include reducing TA base units for graduate students, removing job security for sessional instructors, and increasing ELC/ITP instructor workloads without additional pay. TSSU is waiting for clarification on the Administration’s other proposals, which we expect to receive before our next session on April 11th.

TSSU did secure Administration’s agreement in principle on two of our proposals: to replace the contract’s gendered pronouns (her/his) with gender-neutral pronouns, and to move the ELC/ITP articles from an appendix and into the main text of the contract. Both TSSU’s and the employer’s proposals are available in the TSSU office (AQ 5129) for any member to review, and members are welcome in bargaining sessions. Please email contract@tssu.ca for more information.


Your Contract Committee


Notice served; it’s time to bargain

Your Contract Committee has served notice to our employer that we want to commence bargaining as soon as possible. Bargaining is our opportunity to work together to improve our wage & benefits, reduce our class sizes, secure our employment, and much more. Success at the bargaining table will come by all of us getting involved, getting organized and expressing our shared power. Over the coming weeks more information will be added to this website. For now, here’s how you can help:

  • all members are welcome to attend bargaining sessions, as often as they would like: for more details, email chief_steward@tssu.ca
  • if you want to become a departmental steward, crucial liaisons during bargaining, or get involved in another committee, email tssu@tssu.ca
  • bookmark this website!


Your Contract Committee