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Update #8: Graduate Facilitators gain temporary healthcare and tuition deferment for fall semester; “flexibility” causes tension in ELC/ITP negotiations

July 26, 2019 – Harbour Centre

Less than two months after joining TSSU, the Student Learning Commons Graduate Facilitators have access to temporary healthcare and tuition deferment for the fall semester! TSSU’s contract committee also presented contract language for our newest members, and discussed SFU Administration’s proposal for the English Language and Culture and Interpretation and Translation Programs (ELC/ITP). SFU Administration has not yet explained the contradictory financial reports they provided for the ELC/ITP programs, but negotiations are set to continue on August 22nd in Saywell Hall 10051 (Burnaby campus). 

Graduate Facilitators: now with tuition deferment and extended healthcare 

At the outset of the session, SFU Administration agreed to provide Graduate Facilitators with tuition deferment – like other student members of TSSU – and access to group health benefits. While healthcare costs will not be paid by SFU Administration, this temporary agreement provides short-term access to extended medical coverage for members who need it. This agreement was made without prejudice – meaning that it cannot be referred to in other legal matters – and at no cost to the University, after sustained pressure from TSSU members. 

TSSU also tabled our first proposals for graduate facilitators; our proposal maintains the salary system that pays most (but not all) facilitators, removes the timesheet system that facilitators in the Back on Track program have rightfully criticized, and provides benefits in line with other TSSU members. In this session, SFU Administration’s bargaining team was pared down to its members from Human Resources and ELC/ITP; the Head of the Student Learning Commons was unable to attend to hear our first proposals for the Graduate Facilitators.

TSSU welcomes workers who seek the protections and equalization of power which collective bargaining brings, in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Student Learning Commons Graduate Facilitators joined the union in June, 2019 only the second certification since December 3, 2004, when, in the middle of a contentious round of bargaining, the teachers in ELC/ITP voted to join the union. 

ELC/ITP and the problem of “flexibility” 

SFU Administration characterized the precarity and job insecurity of temporary and part-time instructors in ELC/ITP as “flexibility that both sides have been enjoying.” Members in attendance were unimpressed to hear SFU Administration argue that the lack of job security in ELC/ITP was a result of instructors “wanting” too much “flexibility.” SFU Administration stated in bargaining that they aim to limit this “flexibility” with “rigidity”: their proposal would require ELC/ITP instructors to commit to a set number of hours of work, while amending the classification system so “continuing” teachers would be reclassified as “temporary” if their hours of work decrease – and thus lose access to benefits. 

ELC/ITP members in attendance immediately understood the negative implications of the proposal, wondering why teachers should commit to an institution that will not provide basic stability or benefits to their teachers. The advantage of having members in the room with direct experience was immediately apparent, as Sessionals in attendance were also critical of the proposal in light of their own experiences with precarious work at SFU.

TSSU members are encouraged to attend and participate in bargaining; as an independent, feminist, non-hierarchical, and directly democratic union, our power depends on our members’ involvement. For more information on bargaining, visit a TSSU office near you – proposals are available for members! We’re in Burnaby at AQ 5129, Vancouver near the ELC/ITP program at UM134, and in Surrey across the hall from the library. Email contract@tssu.ca to set a time that works for you, or have us come speak to your department, caucus, lab, or club about negotiations!

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