Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated Tuesday, June 27 at 8:00 A.M.

About Collective Bargaining

Learn about the collective bargaining process, provincial mandate and the university’s philosophy for labour relations.

What is bargaining?

Collective bargaining is the process in which employees, through their unions, negotiate terms and conditions of employment with the university. 

Each of SFU’s employee groups has a three-year collective agreement which expired either at the end of 2021 or during 2022. Once agreements expire, each union or professional association notifies the university of its intent to negotiate a new agreement. The university and its employee groups are now negotiating renewed terms and conditions. This is an important time as the university, employee groups and negotiators work together to address monetary proposals in alignment with the Public Sector mandate and non-monetary proposals for each employee group. This includes wages, hours of work, working conditions and benefits. The outcome of this negotiation is defined as the collective agreement. 

As we work to become a living wage employer, we are committed to working towards fair agreements that meet the core interests of all parties and uphold the sustainable and best interests for the entire SFU community. 

Where do I go to find the most recent information related to collective bargaining at SFU?  

Bargaining communications is regularly updated at  

In the event of job action with community-wide impacts, such as picket line activity, updates will also be shared with the community at  

What is the status of collective agreements at SFU?  

A central web page and regular updates on the status of bargaining with all employee groups is part of a commitment to be more transparent and provide better communication about the collective bargaining process for everyone at SFU. Each month, we will share an overview of the bargaining status of each employee group here:   

What is the Province’s Shared Recovery Mandate?  

SFU, like all universities in British Columbia, is governed by the Public Sector Employers’ Council (PSEC). Each bargaining cycle, PSEC creates a bargaining mandate that all public sector employers with unionized employees are bound to. A collective bargaining mandate is set by the Provincial Government through the 2022 Shared Recovery Mandate  as well as by SFU's Strategic Vision and the priorities laid out in the SFU Academic Plan for 2019-2024. Learn more by visiting our Philosophy, Mandate and Process page. 

Who is responsible for bargaining on behalf of SFU?  

Bargaining for faculty (SFUFA) is conducted by the Faculty Relations team within the Office of the Provost and Vice-President, Academic, with administrative leadership support from the Office of the Vice-President, People, Equity, Inclusion. For more information, please contact  

Bargaining for staff including APSA, CUPE, POLY and TSSU is conducted by the People, Equity and Inclusion’s Human Resources and Labour Relations team. For more information, please contact Chris Hatty, Executive Director, Human Resources and Labour Relations at 

What are the employee groups SFU is bargaining with?  

Bargaining will take place in 2023 with all five employee groups at SFU. 

  • The Administrative and Professional Staff Association (APSA) represents approximately 821 continuing and temporary administrative and professional employees. 
  • The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Local 3338 represents the office, technical, and clerical employees at the University. There are approximately 940 continuing and temporary employees in this bargaining unit. 
  • The SFU Faculty Association (SFUFA) represents all faculty members, laboratory instructors and librarians at the University. There are approximately 1200 employees in this bargaining unit. 
  • The Poly Party represents maintenance and trades staff at the university. It includes approximately 85 continuing and 10 temporary employees from eight unions: 
    • The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Local 1995 
    • The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 213 
    • The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 882 
    • The International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades, Local 138 
    • The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada, Local 170 
    • The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Lodge 692 
    • The Teamsters, Local 213 
    • The Construction and Specialized Workers' Union, Local 1611 

  • The Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) currently represents approximately 1,000 of the non-faculty teaching support staff employed as teaching assistants, tutor markers, graduate facilitators, mentors, ELC & ITP instructors and sessional instructors. 

What happens during collective bargaining?  

Once the mandates are established, both parties at the bargaining table will present and discuss their proposals with supporting data, make counter-proposals and reach agreements on individual proposals that together will form the basis of a renewed agreement. 

How long is collective bargaining?  

Collective bargaining is a very dynamic and fluid process. The duration of collective bargaining depends upon a number of factors, including the number of proposals being tabled and the nature, complexity and implication of the changes sought. 

Where can I find information about steps in the collective bargaining process?  

Learn more about each step by visiting Philosophy, Mandate and Process. 

Can SFU communicate with employees during collective bargaining?  

While SFU negotiates exclusively with employee groups, the university can, when appropriate, communicate directly with employees so that they have a balanced understanding of negotiations and can make informed decisions about their professional and personal lives. 

What happens once a collective agreement is reached/not reached?  

If an agreement is reached during collective bargaining, it forms the basis of a renewed agreement between the employee group and the university, which will then be ratified by SFU, employees in the employee group and the provincial government. 

If a collective agreement is not reached, there are a range of options depending on the employee group, including bringing in a neutral person from the independent Labour Relations Board to help. A mediator can help the parties reach an agreement, or resolve an impasse on some, or all, of the terms of the collective agreement.  

How long will it take for SFU employees and contract workers to see a living wage?  

SFU has announced plans to become a Living Wage Employer, furthering its commitment to improve equity and inclusion for working members of the SFU community. A living wage is a calculation of what a family of four needs to meet its current basic expenses. SFU will follow a phased approach over the next three years as contracts are renewed.

Learn more

About Strike Action and Picketing

Learn about the different forms of strike action, including specific information about picket lines.

What is the university’s position on strike action?

We care about the academic success of our students, supporting our outstanding faculty and staff and nurturing a thriving, world-class research environment. 

The university recognizes the impacts of strike action on our community. Following SFU’s Labour Relations Philosophy, the university bargaining team will look for solutions to reach a negotiated settlement and avoid further strike action. 

Where can I find the latest information about strike action?

In the event of strike action, standard and approved communications will be distributed to faculty, staff and students through a number of channels including newsletters and direct email, when required.

Bargaining communication is regularly updated at  

In the event of job action with community-wide impacts, such as picket line activity, updates will also be shared with the community at  

Can people discuss collective bargaining, job action or strike-related issues?  

Open discussion of issues is encouraged at SFU. However, the Labour Relations Board expressly prohibits the use of coercion, intimidation, threats, promises, undue influence, or similar activity. The right to strike is legal. No one should suffer discrimination or threats from exercising their legal rights. 

What employee groups can strike?  

Only unions in a legal strike position can strike. A legal strike occurs when negotiations between the employer and the union break-down, following an expired collective agreement. Only after a strike vote is taken amongst its members, and appropriate notice provided to the employer, can a union be considered to be in a legal strike position.  

At SFU only SFUFA, CUPE, POLY and TSSU have the ability to strike under the BC Labour Code.  

Strike Policies Quick Reference 
CUPE  CUPE 3338 Local Bylaws
TSSU  TSSU Strike Policy
General  GP 5

What are the different forms of strike action?

During a strike, unions can engage in a variety of strike actions. This can include, but is not limited to a ban on overtime, wearing buttons, placing stickers on assignments, holding “teach-ins” to raise awareness about the union’s bargaining demands and picketing. 

Can people picket inside buildings? Common area corridors, for example. 

People can picket in common areas, including corridors inside buildings. Areas such as classrooms, labs and office spaces are considered private spaces and are not common areas. Health and safety requirements dictate that picket lines cannot block entrances or exits to buildings. 

What can I expect at or while crossing a picket line? 

You can expect banners and noise. By law, picketers are not allowed to touch or restrain you from crossing the picket line. Staff who elect to cross a picket line are encouraged to consider alternate entrances or buddy up while walking through a picket line. Remember, you do not have to engage or respond to demands from those on a picket line. 

What happens if I am prevented from crossing a picket line? 

The safety of our community is our priority. If you are prevented from crossing a picket line, do not try to force your way in or out of a building. Instead, please: 

  • If you have chosen to cross a picket line, do make a reasonable effort to attend work if safe to do so. If your usual entrance is obstructed, consider alternate entrances. 
  • If you are comfortable doing so, attempt to speak politely and factually to the picketers or picket captain and explain your legal right to cross the picket line. 
    • If the picketers do not respond and continue to block your way, ask for their names. 
    • If the picketer and/or picket captain will not give their names, note the date, time, exact location, and a description of the picket captain, and then remove yourself from the situation 
    • Most importantly, avoid confrontation  
    • Do not become embroiled in discussion 
    • Do not respond to threats or taunts 

  • If you were intending to report to work but unable to cross the picket line, contact your manager as soon as possible to report the situation and receive instruction.  

What if I witness or experience intimidation and/or violence on a picket line at SFU when I am attempting to attend work or class?  

Should you require immediate intervention (due to experiencing or witnessing intimidation, violence or vandalism), please call the Campus Security emergency line (Tel: 778 782 4500) 

  • Take note of the time of the incident, descriptions of people involved, and what actions were taken.  
  • If the situation warrants police attention, dial 911, and then inform Campus Security of the situation. 
  • Safewalk is also available 24 hours a day, dial 778-782-7991 for assistance or to make non-urgent reports.  
  • For non-urgent/after the fact instances, contact 778 782 7991 or report via the Strike Incident Report Form and forward to Take note of the time of the incident, descriptions of people involved, and what actions were taken, so that you can provide as much detail as possible on the Strike Incident Reporting Form

Can my photo be taken if I’m engaging with a picket line?  

  • Picketers or picket captains can take photograph or video as you cross, but they cannot physically stop you and force you to take a photo.  
  • You do not have to engage or respond to demands from picketers or picket captains, such as producing identification. 

Information for Faculty and Staff

Learn about your rights and responsibilities during strikes and picket activity

What do I do if there is a picket line outside my building?

Members are encouraged to seek guidance from their union or APSA. The purpose of a picket line is to persuade people not to do work for, or do business with the employer. The right to respect a picket line is legal and outlined in policies AD 9.15 and AD 10.15, as is the decision to cross a picket line.

Under the SFUFA Collective Agreement, faculty who choose to respect a legally-constituted picket line will inform their Dean within 36 hours after a picket line is announced.

APSA policy and the TSSU collective agreement stipulate that members who choose to respect a picket line must inform their supervisor as soon as possible. CUPE and POLY Party members are asked to inform their supervisor within 36 hours of a strike being announced, per GP05 – Strike Policy.

The university may not always have advanced notice of picket line timing and location and recognize that providing notice within 36 hours may not always be feasible.

Essential service employees are required to cross a picket line to perform their essential duties only.  

Other unionized workers, who work at the building being picketed or are working from home but regularly work at this building, may be considered to have not crossed a picket line.

What about pay and benefits in the event of a strike? 

In line with university policy GP05 and relevant collective agreement language, the university will suspend wages for faculty and staff who elect to withhold services or exercise their right to not cross a picket line due to a strike. The university may, under certain circumstances, elect to suspend benefits. Benefits that are tied to pay or time, such as pension or vacation will be reduced accordingly.

Typically, when a union is on strike, the union will use part of their employee dues to pay the employers’ portion of the benefits and supplement pay for their members with strike pay.

Most unions include language in their collective agreements that outlines how they will support their members respecting picket lines; this guidance can include information on how the union will support pay and benefits during a strike.  

As non-union employees, both APSA & APEX members have the choice of whether or not to cross a picket line. Those who do not cross a picket line will be put on unpaid leave and may also have to pay for their benefits package for the duration of the time that they are not working.

The university is committed to working with union and APSA leadership to ensure picketers will have the benefits coverage they need.

How should I instruct my students during strike activity and picketing?

If you are teaching this term, the most important thing is to continue to communicate your expectations to your students.

  • Let students know what you will do should picket lines impact the location of your classes. 
  • Let students know what they should do (for example, contact you in advance) if they choose to exercise their right not to cross a picket line to attend your class, if you have chosen to teach it.
  • If students choose not to cross a picket line, decide whether or not you will grant concessions for missed work, and let your students know your decision in advance if you can. As always, the granting of concessions is up to the instructor. If you are willing to grant a concession, remember there are lots of options available to you, from make-up exams and assignments to re-calculating final grades.
  • If you have students registered with the Centre for Accessible Learning (CAL), we have a legal responsibility to accommodate. Please keep our colleagues in CAL updated on changes in your course that impact students. 

In the event of a strike, who can perform work usually performed by unionized employees?  

Work usually performed by unionized employees can only be performed by unionized employees who are designated as essential, or by non-unionized staff provided they were hired before the date that bargaining commences, or the date that notice to bargain was given by the striking union, whichever comes first. Non-union employees hired after this date may come to work perform their own duties, but may not perform work usually performed by unionized employees.  

Will I need an ID badge to report to work? 

If you require an ID badge to access a restricted area where you work, then you should keep this ID badge on you. Essential service employees may also wish to keep a copy of the essential service order on hand, to prove they are essential if stopped at a picket line.  While it is good practice to have university identification on hand at all times, you have no obligation to show any identification to picketers or picket captains to enter a university building or cross a strike line. 

What should I do if the media contacts my department regarding the job action? 

As per standard process, all institutional media requests are managed by the SFU Communications & Marketing media relations and public affairs team. If you receive a media enquiry, please ask them to contact Tel: 778 782 3210. Email:  

Information for Students

Get the information you need about classes, labs, tutorials, exams and academic concessions during strikes and picket activity.

What do I do if my classroom, lab, tutorial or exam is behind a picket line?

All students who are not members of an SFU union (both graduate students and undergraduate students) are free to conduct themselves in a strike situation as they see fit, in accordance with university policy and procedures. 

  • The most important thing you can do is to stay in contact with your instructors about their expectations. Ask them what to do should picket lines impact the locations of your classes.
  • Check with your instructors on what to do (for example, contact them in advance) if you choose to exercise your right not to cross a picket line to attend their class.
  • Confirm with your instructors in advance on whether they will grant concessions for missed class or exam, and what concession options may be available to you. As always, the granting of concessions is up to the instructor.
  • If you miss class or an exam due to respecting a picket line, please contact your instructor as soon as possible, they will be able to advise you on next steps. 


Information for Supervisors

Find information about supervising employees during strikes including essential services, payroll coding, and work locations.

What is my role as a people leader at SFU?  

Negotiating a collective agreement is complex and SFU recognizes it can sometimes put unintended strain on a relationship between an employer and employees. As a people leader at SFU, you can help share key information about bargaining and job action with your team members so that they can make their own decisions on choosing to cross or not cross a picket line. 

What are the “Essential Services” and what do I need to know about them?  

The Essential Service Order is an order from the Labour Relations Board to designate certain bargaining unit work as essential to continue to prevent immediate and serious danger to the health, safety or welfare of the residents of British Columbia. If you supervise someone whose work has been deemed essential you would have already been contacted about that work.    

How does a strike impact those on hybrid work schedules? 

APSA employees on Hybrid Work schedules may be able to continue to work from home on their hybrid days. SFU will not be pivoting to 100% remote operations in the case of a strike.  

Can I move staff between off-campus and on-campus locations?  

You can move staff to an off-campus location only if this is part of their regular work. If your staff work solely on campus, you cannot relocate them during a strike to work remote in order to get around picket lines unless there is a safety concern. In both cases, a Strike Incident Report Form should be completed and emailed to if there is a safety concern.  

How are pay and benefits affected for employees who choose not to cross picket lines or withdraw services in solidarity? 

Pay and benefits will be suspended for the day, partial day, or hours unworked. Specifically, this means that pay will be suspended, or recovered if overpayment occurred. Benefits that are tied to pay or time, such as pension or vacation will be reduced accordingly.

How should People Leaders record time for employees on strike, or those respecting picket lines in solidarity?

For payroll and timekeeping purposes, people leaders are required to keep track of any faculty or staff who do not report to work as this can affect their pay and benefits.  Using time sheets, use the code for "respecting picket line": code 275 for hourly staff and code 520 for salaried staff.

Are employees entitled to other employee benefits while on strike? 

In accordance with Section 62 of the British Columbia Labour Code, unions who choose to engage in job action are responsible for paying their members’ wages and benefits during the strike period.  

The university is committed to working with union and APSA leadership to ensure picketers will have the benefits coverage they need during this time. 

What happens if a staff member has scheduled vacation during a strike?  

Pre-scheduled vacation prior to a union announcing picket lines will not be affected. Vacation cannot be booked after picket lines are announced in order to offset loss of pay.

Can staff members (union or non-union) use sick time in order to not attend work during a strike? 

Taking sick leave will not be regarded as a legal or acceptable means of withdrawing services, per GP05. Staff who do not attend work in the case of a strike will be coded as “respecting picket line”.  

Do APSA members get overtime for covering picketing employees and how is it calculated? 

For non-managers, time worked beyond 7.2 hours must be recorded and either paid out or banked applicable overtime rates (1.5x up to 12 hours, double time after 12 hours).  

For managers, time worked beyond 7.2 hours must also be recorded but can only be taken as time off in lieu at straight time. The time taken in lieu should also be recorded.