TSSU is one step closer to a Collective Agreement. Thanks to four days of picket lines, SFU Administration has finally given up on gutting our contract. On Tuesday, October 4, 2023 TSSU Strike and Contract Committees agreed to take one day off picketing, allowing SFU Convocation at Burnaby campus to proceed. In exchange, the Employer has withdrawn substantial cuts to our collective agreement. The withdrawn Employer proposals would have:
- Taken the International Student Health Fee out of the group plan and forced students to seek individual reimbursement;
- Cut the scholarship portion of Teaching Assistant pay. For example, this would have amounted to a 13% wage cut for a PhD TA working 10 Base Units; and
- Disallowed Sessionals to be in Limited-Term Lecturer (faculty) positions concurrently, eliminating their ability to earn the wages they need.
This decision was not reached quickly. In our strike actions, TSSU is committed to using the power of our picket lines to motivate the Employer to bargain while minimizing the effects on our community. Picketing convocation would have been an opportunity for massive media coverage, publicizing our strike by demonstrating our collective power, but this picket line more than others would have affected our students, our members, and our communities. By reaching this agreement we have not only given our members time to mend picket signs and solidify our organizing, but we have advanced our progress at the bargaining table.
The Employer planned to use these proposals as leverage in negotiations, expecting TSSU to compromise on members’ bargaining mandate in fear of cuts. Instead of defending these and other cuts to our existing contract, our contract committee can now work toward reaching the Collective Agreement our members need. All of us are on strike for:
- Cost of Living Adjustment
- SFU’s wage offers have failed to keep up with inflation for years, and our members cannot fall further behind. Since 2009, our wages have increased by 17% while inflation has increased by 33%.
- Our proposal links our wage increases to inflation; instead of our members losing money to inflation, this will ‘inflation-proof’ our wages.
- Stop Wage Theft
- We have proposed to modernize our compensation model to include larger class sizes and increased administrative tasks.
- We also want to remove the “equivalencies” that the Employer uses to reduce Teaching Assistant pay. In certain departments TAs teach for 6 hours and only get paid for 4.
- Better Future for Instructors
- Sessional instructors and those in ELC/ITP work for years at SFU while being treated as temporary employees. TSSU demands pensions and paid professional development for all these instructors.
- For Sessionals, we have proposed to improve promotion language so long-term instructors will be made continuing on their second limited-term lecturer appointment.
- Full year teaching plans for ELC/ITP instructors, with planned paid vacation time and accountable duty weeks.
With the possibility of mediation approaching, it is particularly important that we secured the withdrawal of these proposals so that they cannot be used to undercut our other demands. While we have fought off the Employer’s cuts, they have continued to disrespect our members at the bargaining table demonstrating that more pressure is needed to reach an agreement. For one example: in discussion of TA work and overwork in our last session, SFU’s negotiator said that the amount of work will always exceed the hours assigned: “that’s just the nature of the work.” We disagree. We won’t work for free.
Contract Committee and the Employer will return to the bargaining table on Friday, October 6 at 10am. TSSU will simultaneously shut down Vancouver campus with pickets 7:00am-6:00pm. We remain on strike until the Employer proposes a contract within our members’ bargaining mandate. The University’s budget surpluses — products of pandemic shutdown — should be shared with our members who have done much to create that surplus, and continue to keep this university running.