2022/2023 Bargaining Updates

TSSU packs room, SFU “bargains” by refusing to counter on key proposals

TSSU members packed the bargaining to hear the Employer present a new “proposal package” that was mostly rehashed with a few typo fixes, an updated ELC/ITP instructor proposal they’d been hiding for at least a week, and some movement on mental health coverage. It seems the Employer is starting to feel the heat of strike action, but still needs a lot more pressure to really show up and bargain a contract that meets our member’s demands.

After the Employer admitted at the July 8th bargaining session that they have not done any work on responding to TSSU’s priority list from mediation back in April, TSSU provided them with a shortened list to respond to by today on: postings, pensions, mental health coverage, TA/SI compensation models, Graduate Student pay, ELC/ITP instructors, and any other proposals to which they became prepared to respond. At that same session, the Employer told the TSSU Contract Committee that it had proposals ready to present for changes to the ELC/ITP/ITA contract. Today, July 13, 2023, the Employer presented an altered proposal package that did not address the list of issues in any significant way, but did include already prepared ELC/ITP/ITA proposals from the 8th.

Two signs that our strike pressure is working was that the Employer did propose to increase the mental health coverage in the TSSU extended health plan to $2000 from $1000, and to implement the yearly teaching plan for ELC/ITP instructors. Before job action they said they’d never agree to put a yearly plan into the College Agreement and that they wouldn’t even cost mental health coverage as it would “create a new high water mark.” Both of those excuses turned out to be bullshit, when faced with just the first exercising of our collective power through pickets.

The Employer also made a half hearted attempt at movement by proposing a working group that would bring ELC/ITP instructors into the BC College Sector Pension plan, leaving Sessional Instructors out of the proposal, and questioning the savings that SFU would enjoy by suggesting it would only be 20 people. The savings, of course, come with inclusion of the Sessional Instructors in the calculation. The Employer also agreed to include estimates of Base Units BU estimates on job postings in exchange for TSSU withdrawing its proposals on inclusion of statements on Access and Accommodations on postings.

Our members are overworked and underpaid due to increasing class sizes and consistent efforts to undermine our collective agreement. For decades, class sizes were linked to compensation for hundreds of members who taught distance education and online courses. TSSU has presented a comprehensive compensation model for TA work, refined over the course of a decade, to ensure our members aren’t exploited and to ensure students have paid TAs to support them. With the rapid implementation of blended, hybrid, flex, and remote learning, we must fight for a proper pay system for TAs. The Employer has never proposed anything, and while it unilaterally eliminated the old system in violation of our Collective Agreement, it still has not presented a proposal for an alternative. 

Negotiating is impossible if one of the parties refuses to present a functional counter proposal, but the Employer said they have not proposed anything because they do not want to present anything the TSSU will oppose. This was all presented today as “bargaining,” at the same time as the TSSU was accused of remaining stuck on its first position.

This is beyond frustrating, but the small movement after months of inaction shows how effective our two picket lines have been in pressuring the Employer. They have still refused to address the big issue of TA/SI compensation and showed no willingness to address wage theft, but have shown a willingness to correct minor typos and waste all of our time. Our recent experience shows what we need are bigger and longer picket lines to force the Employer finally reckon with solving the mess of exploitation, overwork, wage theft, and harassment that they created.

There is no victory without struggle and hundreds of years of history have shown that when workers fight back, they win. Look for us on the picket line.

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