After 3 months of delays by SFU Administration, we finally had two half-day sessions of bargaining on August 12th and August 18th. These were the first two sessions with a new negotiator for SFU Administration. Not much happened on August 12th as we spent the day reviewing the latest proposals each party had presented back on May 13, 2021. The highlight of the day was when the negotiator for SFU, after years of denying this, admitted that power imbalances exist and that “in some instances that might place strain in the workplace.”
We expected August 18th to be a productive day of negotiations. SFU Administration had promised to respond to our latest proposal, to present an updated proposal which we hoped would bring us closer together and closer to a collective agreement which RAs have now been waiting almost 2 years for. However, this is not how the day began. All of the work that had been accomplished since March 2021 with the previous negotiator was thrown out the window.
The new negotiator presented the University’s updated proposals. He began by stating that he didn’t like what had been agreed to previously and he tried to strong-arm us into rescinding on everything we’ve accomplished. For example, what we had already agreed to in terms of things that should be included in the letter of employment such as number of hours of work, schedule of work, and work location were reneged on. We were told that these things were administratively burdensome and that it was “hugely problematic to embed hours of work in the employment agreement.” It was shocking to hear this and to see all of the work we had accomplished undone. When it was time for us to respond, we stormed out of the negotiations (we left the zoom call), letting SFU Administration know that TSSU won’t engage in backwards bargaining.
SFU Administration requested we come back to the table and agreed to revert back to their previous proposal. We returned and made it clear that this behaviour wasn’t acceptable, and that reneging on what they’d previously agreed to completely destroyed our faith in their ability to negotiate with us. We demanded that they return with a proposal that includes movement towards our position and that they bargain with us in good faith. They have promised to come to our next bargaining session with a proper response to our three month old proposal from May 13, 2021.
In an attempt to make the day somewhat productive, we decided to end the day by presenting our high level monetary overview, something that we had planned to do back in May. We let SFU Administration know that our main goal is to protect, value, and respect the labour of Research Assistants and Grant Employees at SFU: World class research requires this. We presented the key provisions that are absolutely necessary to provide that respect to RAs which includes: paid sick leave, vacation pay, fair compensation and wage increases, employer-paid MSP/International Student Health Fee, extended health and dental, EFAP access, and maternity and paternity leave, and more.
We have three more bargaining dates scheduled for September. We hope that SFU Administration comes to the bargaining table with an updated proposal that will get us closer to an agreement. RAs have waited for far too long for a collective agreement and deserve the rights and benefits that all other employees at SFU already have.