TSSU has elected to go on strike in order to secure a number of proposals. Prior to the strike vote, no positive progress was made during bargaining with the employer on any of these matters. Our proposals are based on good practice observed in other universities, and/or some of the departments at SFU, which we think should be adopted as the norm. We do not feel the employer has provided compelling reasons against accepting the proposals we have made so far.
FOR SESSIONAL INSTRUCTORS
Guarantee job security for experienced teachers
One quarter of SFU’s classes are taught by sessional instructors. In many cases, instructors have successfully taught particular courses multiple times. However, their job security is limited, frequently requiring sessionals to re-apply for jobs every semester. TSSU is proposing a seniority system, based on the ones already used at York University and Vancouver Community College. If accepted, this would give sessional instructors greater job security than they currently experience. Furthermore, courses would be more likely taught by instructors who have the experience and familiarity of previously teaching the material, which we think is of clear benefit to students.
Click here for more information on the situation for sessional instructors.
FOR ELC/ITP INSTRUCTORS
Guarantee equitable benefits
TSSU believes these long-time SFU instructors deserve benefits, professional development and working conditions that recognize their contribution to SFU, and that are on par with the administrative and clerical support staff who work side by side with them and who receive the full SFU benefits package, which includes health and dental benefits, extensive sick leave and long term disability, professional development funding, pension, tuition waiver, and a minimum of 4 weeks of vacation time. ELC/ITP instructors receive only health and dental benefits, minimal sick leave, and limited access to vacation, and no pension or tuition waiver. This disparity within the department is fundamentally unfair, because without the instructors there could be no ELC/ITP program.
Close the continuing-to-temporary loophole
SFU desires to make all ELC/ITP instructors temporary so they can use them in a manner similar to sessional instructors. Making these instructors temporary ultimately denies them access to the health and dental benefits which TSSU won in bargaining. TSSU wants to clarify the contract language to ensure that temporary instructors are defined as only those hired to replace continuing instructors. This would ensure that SFU could no longer exploit temporary workers to eliminate the benefits of their current staff.
Click here for more information on the situation for ELC/ITP instructors.
FOR TEACHING ASSISTANTS AND TUTOR MARKERS
Guarantee access to work
TSSU wants to create a pool system for graduate student applicants within a department. This means graduate students in the department would only need to indicate their desire to TA/TM in the upcoming semester, and then the department would fit their graduate students into the available positions. In addition, if departments wish to hire outside of the group of currently enrolled (graduate or undergraduate) students and recently completed graduate students, they would require authorization from the union. This same system is in place at UBC and is an essential component that ensures UBC graduate students receive sufficient TA work.
Undergraduates employed as TAs make significantly less money than graduates doing the same job, which can provide an incentive for them to be hired over those who are more experienced in their subject areas. TSSU believes students are better off being taught by more experienced TAs.
Merge TA & TM language in the Collective Agreement
Pay should reflect workload. Currently, TMs rightly receive more pay if they are tutoring a greater number of students, but this does not apply to TAs. With ‘flexible education’ on the increase, we are concerned that TAs will face increasing class sizes without an increase in their pay. This increase can include students with an online rather than physical presence in the classroom. We believe this has a worrying impact on students, as it limits the amount of time TAs can offer individual attention, along with the greater workload potentially impacting on their ability to meet the increased demands resulting from being responsible for higher student numbers.
Click here for more information on the situation for graduate students working as TAs and TMs.
FOR ALL TSSU MEMBERS
Post all positions on the same day
Currently, the departments in SFU announce TA and TM upcoming job vacancies at different times throughout the preceding semester, along with different application deadlines. Many prospective TAs and TMs are qualified to work in more than one department, but because of this disparity, can find themselves limited in the positions they are able to reasonably apply for. TSSU supports a university-wide common posting day for each semester. This would make it easier for those looking for work to apply to all positions they are qualified for, and would help ensure all courses are taught by those best able to do so.
Obey the laws of British Columbia
Worksafe BC requires that employees be allowed to use work hours if they sit on safety committees, which teachers can’t do, so instead, they ought to be paid for that time. SFU is also required by the Employment Standards Act to pay members what they’ve earned and on time. Right now, they don’t.
Make Surrey and Downtown real campuses, not satellites
TSSU members require real access to campus mail in order to do our jobs, and right now, we don’t have it in Surrey or Harbour Centre.
Protect us from surveillance and guarantee our intellectual property
Given how many cameras and microphones are on campus and how much of our interaction with our students happens online, we need clear, fair rules about how those records can be used. TSSU is seeking to ensure that any recordings made in classes are only used in the case of criminal acts, and are not used for other purposes, such as monitoring the teaching of TSSU members. In addition, we believe students should not have to worry that their presence in classes will be monitored in this way.
Furthermore, we need guarantees that we will own our lectures, slides, and other teaching materials.
The wages issue has not yet been put on the table, but it is certainly an area we would like to discuss with the employer in the future. It is worth noting that while Vancouver is one of the more expensive Canadian cities to live in, many universities in other parts of the country pay their teaching support staff significantly more for equivalent jobs to those at SFU. If teaching staff have to work additional jobs in order to pay for their basic living costs, this limits the amount of time and energy they can devote to being effective teachers for their students.