TSSU Bargaining Update

November 10, 2022

This fall, SFU and the TSSU resumed collective bargaining following the September 15th arbitration decision from Arbitrator Jim Dorsey, meeting on three occasions: September 22nd, 23rd and October 26th. 

The SFU bargaining team tabled proposals that demonstrate an unwavering commitment to ensuring TSSU members are deemed employees with as few exceptions as possible. However, SFU and the TSSU have an interpretive difference with regards to how the arbitrator’s September 15 decision defines employment, versus scholarship, with respect to research. In order to continue productive negotiations, the university has requested that the arbitrator offer the parties clarification on points within the decisions, which SFU and the TSSU interpret differently.  

SFU is committed to protecting the rights of our graduate students to pursue knowledge without barrier and ensuring they can continue to engage in the myriad world-class learning opportunities available at the university. This is why the university considers some activities learning rather than employment. If all academic research activities are deemed employment, it may preclude graduate students from engaging in certain academic pursuits (such as lab or field work) without an employment contract. This may have the unintended consequence of keeping a graduate student from partaking in all learning options available. 

If a graduate student wanted to conduct an experiment in a lab setting in support of their scholarly pursuits, for example, they may no longer have the freedom to do so without being hired as an employee by the university. The university wishes to protect this range of options for graduate students and believes that clarity from the arbitrator about these definitions will support this.

We are committed to ensuring that TSSU members are transitioned to SFU employment contracts in accordance with the September 15th arbitration decision and that their contributions to the SFU research ecosystem are recognized. It is the university’s perspective that to ensure graduate students have the freedom to choose learning options liberally, the scope of the arbitrator’s decision is contained to those who are conducting research as work. The arbitrator has been readily available to SFU and TSSU, and we are intent to return to negotiations and the implementation of the award once clarification is confirmed, without delay.

Determining a first collective agreement for an employee group is complex, and we are working diligently to both continue negotiations toward a collective agreement and implement the arbitration decision. SFU values and appreciates our research assistant staff and we remain committed to reaching a fair agreement with the TSSU as quickly as possible.