Because many new members have joined TSSU this Fall, the Contract Committee and Strike Committee thought we should summarize bargaining, the ongoing strike, and look forward to what’s next.
What’s at stake?
TSSU is bargaining for three key improvements to our Collective Agreement: (1) a Cost of Living Adjustment, (2) to Stop Wage Theft, and (3) A Better Future for Instructors.
(1) Cost of Living Adjustment
We want wage increases tied to inflation and to ensure that graduate student workers see increases in their take-home pay. While the Employer claims to be offering the maximum available under their PSEC mandate, the reality is that their wage proposals do not keep up with inflation; they are proposing a pay cut. When we look back, our wage increases since 2009 total 17% while inflation was nearly double at 33%. Our members cannot fall further behind.
(2) Stop Wage Theft
We need to modernize the compensation model for teachers, whether TAs or Sessional Instructors, so that bigger class sizes, more administrative tasks, blended, remote, and other forms of instruction are fairly compensated. We also need to eliminate antiquated “equivalencies” in some departments that pay less for more work.
(3) A Better Future for Instructors
Instructors need paid professional development opportunities and pensions so they can retire securely. We are fighting for ELC/ITP/ITA Instructors to have continuing jobs with full teaching years and to improve Sessional Instructors’ bridge to temporary Faculty jobs.
How’s it going?
TSSU has met with the Employer’s team for bargaining 38 times since November 2022, and the Employer has done little more than delay, obfuscate, and sometimes outright refuse to meaningfully address many of our fundamental issues.
While we are fighting to improve our working conditions, the Employer seeks to cut many rights and benefits that TSSU has won through decades of organizing, bargaining, and striking. The Employer is proposing to eliminate the scholarship portion of TA compensation, reducing take-home pay. They want to eliminate Sessional Instructors’ right to temporary faculty jobs and gut the seniority system. And the Employer continues to demand unpaid work from ELC/ITP/ITA Instructors.
We have made some minor but not insignificant progress at the bargaining table only after taking a strike vote and going on pickets. For example, when TSSU first proposed increasing our mental health coverage to $2500/year, the Employer’s response was that TSSU members could not have any benefits greater than anyone else on campus, despite being the largest union at SFU. After picketing in Burnaby and at Harbour Centre, however, they came back and offered $2000/year for mental health coverage.
What is to be done?
We know that historically, and in this round of bargaining especially, the Employer’s deliberate logjam breaks up only when we take job action. The University works because we do, so our greatest power is to withdraw our labour. More job actions will be required to pressure the Employer to meet our demands. According to the Employer, we are not at a “critical juncture” in bargaining. We need to show them that meaningful action on a Cost of Living Adjustment, to Stop Wage Theft, and A Better Future for Instructors is critical NOW.