After seven months of negotiations and six months without a contract, bargaining progresses at a snail’s pace. In our meetings, SFU Administration shows a strong attachment to the bargaining positions they took back in April, but no willingness to address TSSU members’ needs as expressed through our proposed contract language and reiterated at the table. With our memories of the last bargaining round and the ensuing strike, we hoped the Administration would hold to their commitment to bargaining differently this round. Nevertheless, their tactics are consistent with those used bargaining previous contracts, when negotiations dragged on for more than a year. Not only have they so far refused to address the needs our members mandated us to meet, where they have offered improvements, they have done so in an attempt to divide our membership. They have tied deep cuts to Sessional Instructors’ rights to unspecified improvements for TAs, for example. Our committee has consistently rejected such divisive notions.
On 24 October, SFU Administration tabled a three-item package proposal. This “package” entirely removed Sessional Instructors’ access to rights to promotion (Article XIV.F.3) without offering a replacement, effectively returning long serving Sessionals to an endless cycle of four-month contracts. Our members made it clear before negotiations that this was an unacceptable situation, and we refuse to concede hard won promotion language without a suitable replacement. The other two items included paying Sessionals for Directed Studies courses, and compensation for Sessionals “invited” to participate in departmental governance, but neither gave sessionals any right to access this work. In practical terms, those proposals, if agreed to, would remove access to this work.
On 29 October, negotiating for language instructors in ELC/ITP, SFU Administration offered three proposals. One would define and possibly limit the work-year to 40 paid weeks for continuing instructors, most who currently work 48 weeks to make ends meet—TSSU argues for a 52-week year, reasoning that three months without access to pay is untenable. Another sets out a scheduling procedure for the departments’ instructors, which asks both continuing and temporary instructors to commit in advance to a full year’s paid and unpaid months, that also proposes that “temporary” employees unable to provide such a plan would not be assigned hours. The Contract Committee stressed the contradiction in classifying instructors as temporary while simultaneously asking them to plan for a year of work in the department. The Employer has also proposed that “Special Assignments” that include curriculum development and substitution, which currently are part of scheduled workload, would be posted as separate as yet undefined positions.
While SFU Administration keep reiterating their desire to rely less on a precarious workforce, their proposals do nothing to limit the precarity or improve the working situations of Sessional or Temporary ELC/ITP instructors in any way.