RA Bargaining Update

RA Update #4: Bending Back and Forth Continues; Monetary discussions near

TSSU and SFU have met twice since our last update and registered some progress, although key differences remain. Two half-days of bargaining are scheduled for Tuesday, May 18 and Thursday, May 20, 2021, at which point TSSU hopes the discussion will shift to include monetary issues like wages and benefits. 

Today, SFU Administration once again presented as its counter-proposal a watered down version of TSSU’s comprehensive proposal from April 29, 2021. The Employer registered little progress despite having two weeks to respond, but managed to move slightly towards TSSU’s proposal.

The Administration remains focussed on “flexibility,” but in its description of the reasoning for that flexibility suggested that faculty would be receiving little or no support as PIs from SFU Administration. This comment that Administration plans to offer no significant support to faculty in the process of bringing RAs onboard and changing hiring/employment procedures should also serve as a timely reminder for faculty that not only is SFU trying to shortchange their graduate students in denying them basic rights, but it is also leaving them alone to adapt to circumstances that it knew years ago were coming and that would require changes to administrative processes. Members of the research community should ask themselves where the 25+% of each grant earmarked for the basic administration goes, and where the Tri-Council research support fund is being allocated.

SFU Administration mirrored some of TSSU’s proposal language and content, but took out most of the specificity and enforceability. One example allowed an unlimited discretionary ability not to post a position, leaving RAs in the dark about jobs available. TSSU’s Contract Committee continues to hold out for the communication of basic knowledge of the specifics of positions and their availability, through postings and offers, and for the basic protections we know RAs have asked for surrounding overwork and holiday/weekend hours.

In an attempt to force the Administration to recognize the necessity of these protections we have modified the language of our agreement to more closely resemble the Employer’s while maintaining the power reserved to RAs. We hope that these changes will help encourage SFU to come to the bargaining table with renewed willingness to provide RAs with a contract that protects them and the research they do, and puts a reasonable portion of SFU’s $800 million annual budget towards something other than empty administrative “flexibility.”

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