In April 2014, the contract between SFU and TSSU, known as the Collective Agreement, expired. This document outlines employees’ working conditions. Since May 2014, TSSU has been in collective bargaining with the employer, meaning negotiations between both sides in order to reach a new Collective Agreement. This expired Collective Agreement is enforceable until a new one is secured.
Fifteen collective bargaining sessions occurred between then and February 2015. None of the proposals put forward by TSSU were signed or agreed to by the employer, nor were they meaningfully discussed or countered. TSSU’s proposals were all either turned down or concessions were offered, meaning a working conditions would get worse for our members. In some cases, the offers from SFU, had they been accepted, would have placed TSSU members in conditions worse than the minimum requirements set out by British Columbia’s labour laws.
As a result of this lack of progress, TSSU decided in a general membership meeting in February 2015 to hold a strike vote. Polling took place the following month, and 92% of respondents voted in favour of strike action. This means the democratically decided position of the TSSU was that bargaining sessions have not been operating in the interests of our members, and that further pressure was required to encourage the employer to satisfactorily engage with the process. TSSU’s goal is to return to the bargaining table and reach a new Collective Agreement that improves both the working conditions of its members and your learning conditions as SFU students.
A common misconception we would like to address is what it means for us to have passed a strike vote under British Columbia’s labour laws. It does not automatically mean cancelling classes or picket lines. Instead, a successful strike vote means TSSU members can carry out job action, and job action can include anything from teachers taking a few minutes of class time to explain the issues to their students, to placing stickers on marked work, all the way to withholding grades. So, while it is accurate to say we are “on strike” right now, this status does not in itself mean the end of your classes.
Nonetheless, refusal to teach classes and organize picket lines are also forms of job action, and ones we would be able to carry out if we thought them necessary. We hope these measures will not become necessary because the Administration will engage in meaningful bargaining. That said, we have already committed less disruptive job action, and we have been empowered by our membership to move to pickets if our Strike Committee deems it necessary, but our goal is always to end the strike quickly by achieving a new, fair Collective Agreement. Your support and understanding during all job action is critically important.
TSSU regards taking job action as regrettable, believing it to be an unfortunately necessary measure in order to open up productive negotiations with this Employer. It is worth noting that previous Collective Agreements at SFU have only been secured following a successful strike vote. This pattern has forced us to draw the conclusion that the Administration takes us seriously only when we commit to job action.
Find out here how you can help support the TSSU strike.
Find out here more information on the situation for graduate students who are TAs and TMs.
Find out here more information on the situation for ELC/ITP instructors.
Find out here more information on the situation for sessional instructors.