Strike FAQ

A strike the way workers put pressure on an Employer to meet their bargaining demands by refusing to do some, or all, of the work upon which the Employer relies. A strike can include various forms of “job actions” such as a cessation of work, a concerted refusal to work or to continue to work, a slowdown, or other concerted activity. What is key is that it is a collectively decided action and that it is designed to put pressure on the Employer.

Teaching Assistants (including Education Mentors), Tutor Markers, Sessional Instructors, ELC/ITP/ITA Instructors, Graduate Facilitators are involved in the strike. Research Assistants and Grant Employees are currently not on strike but must adhere to the TSSU Strike Policy. If picket lines are set up, all TSSU members including Research Assistants must respect the picket lines.

TSSU members perform more than half of teaching work at SFU. Still, the Employer refuses to meaningfully discuss key problems such as increasing class sizes, overwork, the rising cost of living and housing, pensions and benefits for long-service employees. Not only will SFU not address our demands, but they’ve also insisted on making massive cuts to the Collective Agreement, including cutting seniority and promotion rights for sessional instructors, ISHF protections for over half of our members, and the scholarship portion of wages for graduate student TAs (to be replaced with wages). After months of striking and about a week of full work stoppage and picket lines, the Employer took all concessions off the table. We are now fighting for a better contract! We need to secure an updated, complete contract and aren’t going to wait years and years for it while the cost of living continues to skyrocket.

TSSU/SFU Collective Agreement expired on April 30, 2022.  We’ve had over 41 bargaining sessions. At these sessions, TSSU has time and again put forward proposals to address our members’ needs, and the response from the Employer has been to say No outright, to keep delaying, or to claim improvements would have to be offset with monetary concessions. They have approached the process with stalling tactics and a general refusal to consider our proposals. Unfortunately, we realized that without an increased level of pressure to show that we are serious, our attempts to negotiate wouldn’t go anywhere.

Decisions about what strike action to take, and when, are made by the Strike Committee. This committee is made up of six TSSU members, who are elected by the membership at a Special General Meeting following the Strike Vote of the entire membership held in March 2023.

All TSSU members are welcome to attend the Strike Committee and Greater Strike Committee meetings and are encouraged to participate in the discussion. Ultimately, after hearing input from everyone present, the decisions will be made by the Strike Committee members. Times and locations for these meetings are available at

The duration of this struggle is not a question of time, but a question or pressure. When we exercise our collective power through strike action, we demonstrate our unity, our strength, and the enormous value we contribute to the university. In past strike situations, the Employer has moved rapidly and substantively towards our bargaining demands once we have escalated to ongoing pickets. We have already seen the results of our indefinite work stoppage and picket lines with SFU removing all concessions from the table on October 4th. The picket lines are only as strong as the amount of members who show up to hold the lines & demonstrate our collective power.

If you require accommodations to make the picket lines accessible, please let us know at and we will be glad to arrange them. We are able to arrange for alternative remote picket duties in a very limited number of circumstances for people who live outside of the lower mainland or have a clear and demonstrable inability to join the line.

You can support the strike by participating in strike actions. Stay informed about the escalating strike actions as they unfolds and do what you can in your department to encourage other members’ participation. Come out to our general meetings, join a committee. Get the latest update on actions by following us on Twitter/ Instagram.

Job action involves many escalating ‘actions’, up to and including a work stoppage, undertaken by the union membership. The ‘actions’ are usually designed to put maximum pressure on the employer, and limit, as much as possible, the impact on our members and the public. The TSSU will begin with actions that have a lesser impact on the Faculty, and students of SFU (the public), and progress towards actions that put maximum pressure on our Employer: SFU Senior Administration to meet our demands. Currently, the ongoing and indefinite job actions are a full and complete work stoppage for all TSSU members with an active teaching appointment and picket lines rotating between campuses.

Strike action works when we act as a collective. The more members participating in an action adds up to a greater impact and a louder voice. Our strength as a union comes when we act together in solidarity. Remember that the objective is for job action to do its work in the earlier, less intense stages so that it doesn’t need to escalate into a full-scale work stoppage.

In recent months, academic worker unions have gone on strike and won the same kinds of raises and benefits that we are seeking:

  • Temple University graduate workers won a 30 % increase in pay from $20,700 to $27,000 by the end of the contract
  • McMaster University TAs and RAs won increases up to 21.7 % through the life of the contract
  • University of California academic workers won raises up to 66 % in December 2022, average annual graduate student salary increased from 24,000 to $54,000

Collective job action works by showing the employer that the union members are invested in getting a fair contract and unified in their support of the union’s proposals. The biggest consequence of not participating in strike action is that it undermines this display of solidarity, which means that your fellow members’ efforts are more likely to be in vain. If you continue to do work that has been “struck” you could be subject to fines. In the case of a full or partial work stoppage, any money you earn in salary by doing struck work would be forfeited to the University, and you would only be able to access strike pay through active participation at the picket line.

In accordance with the SFU Strike Policy (GP 5), your supervisor may not impose, nor threaten to impose, any type of sanction (academic or otherwise) as a result of legal behaviour during job action. Furthermore, you cannot be required to cross a picket line. Should such a situation arise, you should contact your departmental steward or the TSSU office without delay.

Attempts by supervisors to influence, intimidate or coerce members into not attending TSSU meetings or information sessions are contrary to the Labour Relations Code. The union may bring these illegal actions to the attention of the appropriate authorities.

Finally, sessional instructors who supervise teaching assistants are reminded that they are expected to abide by all decisions taken by the membership in accordance with TSSU Bylaws.

Work will likely have piled up because of the strike, so when you take over the TA work you are concerned that there could be a ton more work, which is totally understandable. The key thing is that you should not work for free. There will be a back to work negotiation that will account for all this when the TSSU Contract Committee settles the strike with the Employer. Either we will receive additional pay to catch up on work, or your supervisor will adjust the workload to fit the hours you are paid. If this doesn’t happen, let us know immediately by emailing We will all have to make adjustments to our work and courses when we get to a deal and return to teaching. This would be equally true if our work were disrupted by something like inclement weather. The changes will likely include things like adjusting TUG forms and course assignments so that it’s possible to complete the duties associated with a particular course within the hours allotted for their completion.

It’s entirely legal for international student members to participate in a strike, perform strike duties, and/or show support for the Union during contract negotiations. Receiving strike pay and performing strike duties are allowable under your permit to attend SFU. A strike doesn’t change the fact that SFU is your Employer and the place where you are going to school.

In the event of a work stoppage, pay is withheld by the Employer. Strike pay is available for TSSU members who lose wages and participate in the strike (including Research Assistants) through picketing. 

Strike pay is not meant to be a wage, rather it is meant to help offset the burden of a work stoppage on our members. The only time that strike pay is necessary is when we have put up picket lines and all work is stopped. For a member to obtain strike pay in this situation they must volunteer their time to participate in the picket line or other assigned duty. The Strike Policy in the TSSU Bylaws provide a clear scale for strike pay. At a General Membership meeting this summer, we included an extra bracket for 4-6 hours of picketing. Picket pay is not meant to completely replace wages. It is meant to get our members through a difficult time.

The rate of weekly strike pay is set at:
$70 for 4 or more but less than 6 hours.
$100 for 6 or more but less than 12 hours.
$250 for 12 or more but less than 24 hours; and
$400 for 24 or more hours.

Picket pay is not taxable and no deductions are made, so you will receive the full amounts in the policy. Picket pay is sent out weekly. Any questions about your strike pay should be directed towards

Because RAs are not yet part of the certified bargaining unit of TSSU, RA work cannot legally be struck by TSSU. RAs are, however, TSSU members, so they are beholden to TSSU’s By-Laws and Policies, including the Strike Policy. All workers at SFU have the right to respect a picket line (that, to refuse to cross one) and as TSSU members, RAs have an additional obligation to do so. TSSU members do not cross picket lines–certainly not our own. As members, RAs are also eligible for Strike Pay if they lose wages and join the picket line.

TSSU’s strike policy does make provisions for members to still complete their graduate studies in the event of work stoppage. This provision is only available, however, to RAs whose employment overlaps with their own academic or thesis work. In short, if your RAship is not related to your own academic work or thesis, you are not eligible for a picket pass. If your RAship does overlap with your own academic work or thesis, your first duty is to make all reasonable effort to relocate or reschedule that work so as to not cross a picket line. If that is not possible, you would be eligible for a picket pass, which allows members passage across the line to do things that are absolutely necessary for their own degree progression.

Yes! If RAs normally work in a building that is being picketed and they respect the picket line and lose wages as a result, they are eligible to receive strike pay. RAs are unequivocally TSSU members and are bound to the same Strike Policy as any other member, which includes strike pay. If you have not received a payworks email, please reach out to

Our bylaws (Article Y.2) make it clear that “TSSU does not wish to affect the ability of Members to complete their studies.” However, our bylaws also compel us to relocate or reschedule our graduate studies so that we do not cross picket lines. This section of the bylaws are quoted in full below:

“Every member must make all reasonable efforts to reschedule or relocate all activities
directly related to their graduate studies so as not to cross any picket line and not to
diminish the impact of any struck work.”

If you haven’t yet, reach out to your seminar facilitators to ask that they accommodate your need as a union member to respect a picket line. If these requests are ignored, reach out to to talk about options for time-limited picket pass. If you are doing research in a picketed building that is going into your thesis and this research would be seriously compromised if you were to respect the picket line, please also reach out to to talk about options for time-limited picket pass.

Show your solidarity with your fellow teachers by speaking to your colleagues and students about the issues that have led to the strike. Support any TSSU members that you have contact with in their job actions. We have postcards that say “I support TSSU” that you can put on your door and we encourage you to visibly show your solidarity. Further, respect our Picket Lines and do not cross them. We have also drafted an outline of a letter you can address to Joy Johnson, SFU’s president. You can sign the letter here. You can find other ways to support the strike here.

Talk to your fellow students about what is happening and why. Stay informed about any solidarity actions that will come up by liking us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter/ Instagram. Respect our Picket Lines and do not cross them. You can find other ways to support the strike here.

As per the most recent SFU Senate motion, students have the right to respect a picket line, but academic concessions granted as a result of missing class are only up to the individual professor. students shouldn’t be academically punished for respecting (i.e., not crossing) picket lines. Unfortunately, SFU Senate has chosen to not make a clear statement regarding academic concessions in the event of a picket line, so, at the moment, what the right to respect a picket line means to students is unclear. But, what we can do to support is at least try and ask for academic concessions! Here is an email template prepared by undergraduate student supporters of the TSSU strike used to email a professor about cancelling class if it’s behind a picket line and/or granting concessions to students who will respect the picket line.

Strikes are effective because they are disruptive, and disruption inevitably causes short-term inconvenience. But the harm to students from our not striking may be far greater than short-term inconvenience. Many students are organizing already to support our contract demands because they know that our demands are for the good of our entire community. Our working conditions are students’ learning conditions. We are fighting to end precarity among workers who teach them, which means that students will benefit. Pushing back against the corporate university and defending public education is an important teachable moment for our students. If you would like a student-facing powerpoint slide to add to your lectures please contact

Any work stoppage only affects members who are currently employed. Other forms of job action, particularly those that are designed to show solidarity, can be undertaken by all members regardless of their employment status. Emails indicating what form of job action will be initiated and when will be sent to all members. Keep in mind that the Strike Policy applies to all members, working or not. In particular, no member may perform struck work or cross a picket line.

Regular emails will be sent to all members. These emails will detail what form of job action is to be done by each member group (TA, TM, GF, Education Mentors, Sessional Instructor or ELC/ITP/ITA Instructor). In addition, you can contact the TSSU office at any time (AQ 5129/5130,, 778-782-4735) with any questions or concerns. You are also encouraged to attend General Membership Meetings each month, and weekly Strike Committee Meetings. Times and locations for these meetings are available at You are also encouraged to stay in contact with your department steward.

No. The law protects union members’ right to participate in collective job action. This includes protecting them from dismissal or any disciplinary action by their employer, during or after job action.

Walking the picket line is extremely important to make our collective power visible. However, there are myriad roles at a picket line that don’t involved walking or standing & help sustain the line itself. We need people to help ensure our fellow members are signed-in and signed out each day. We need people to staff an information table for both TSSU members and members of the greater SFU community, as well as a crafts table. If you cannot stand and walk for extended periods of time, there will be plenty to do at the picket line! If it is impossible for you to make it in person because you have a disability or illness or you live outside of the BC Lower Mainland, please reach out to