Setting the Record Straight: Why SFU is Pressuring the TSSU to Agree to a Process that will End the Strike
On July 17th, the TSSU issued 72 hour strike notice, which took the effect of an overtime ban in the ELC/ITP program and the withholding of all student grades. Since that time, the summer semester ended and over 10,000 SFU students have been without grades as a result of the TSSU’s strike. We have now moved into the fall semester with the TSSU strike action ongoing. The Union continues to withhold grading of all student assignments, reports and exams for over 25,000 students. The ongoing and increasing adverse impact to SFU students needs to end. To date the University has made numerous efforts to resolve the ongoing dispute, including attending two rounds of mediation and bringing the VP Academic to the bargaining table, all to no avail. During this time the University has consciously decided to take no actions against the TSSU, hoping that the collective bargaining process would ultimately lead to a mutually agreeable conclusion. Regrettably, the TSSU has shown no motivation to moderate their proposals or to agree to a Final Offer Selection process, which falls within the same mandate that applies to all other public sector employees in the province.
Through all of this time, the Union has not faced any consequences for their disruptive actions, yet 19 CUPE staff lost wages as a result of TSSU’s picket on September 8 and many SFU staff are working extra hours to support students facing challenges created by the Union. Moreover, thousands of students are unable to find out about their academic progress.
The University has decided that it can no longer refrain from pressuring the Union with the legitimate tools that are available to all employers during labour disputes.
It was for this reason that the University informed the TSSU that should the Union wish to maintain the health and welfare benefits normally provided by the University, the Union would be expected to pay the cost of the University’s share of these benefits. These benefits would be terminated if TSSU elected to not cover this cost. This means the decision to terminate the payment of TSSU member health and welfare benefits is left solely in the Union’s hands. In such labour disputes, unions typically pay for their members’ benefits from their strike fund. Ultimately, the decision on how and if TSSU member benefits are paid now rests with the TSSU.
In the meantime, the University is still waiting to hear whether the TSSU will agree to the Final Offer Selection process we have suggested. The process proposed by the University is a response to an initial proposal from the Union. The University worked with the Public Sector Employers Council (PSEC) to ensure that the proposal would be approved by PSEC and could lead to a collective agreement that would be also approved by the provincial government. This requirement to conclude an agreement within the PSEC mandate applies to every public sector union in BC. This was acknowledged by the TSSU on September 13 when the Union agreed that the results of the Final Offer Selection process would fall within the PSEC mandate. It has now been two weeks since the University tabled this proposed process on September 29th and the TSSU has yet to respond.
In view of the Union’s very slow response and the increasing stress on SFU students, the University will continue to put pressure on the Union to encourage it to agree to a process that will allow their core issues to be addressed in front of an impartial arbitrator.