TSSU collective bargaining explained

August 17, 2023

Communication Standards

Communications from the university are guided by standards in the BC Labour Code. In accordance with the labour code, statements by the university must be accurate and reasonably complete.

Current Status of Bargaining between SFU and TSSU certified bargaining unit

The university and the TSSU have been actively involved in collective bargaining since fall 2022. Negotiations continued into July, however no additional bargaining dates have been confirmed. The university is hopeful to schedule additional dates in September so that productive negotiations continue. 

TSSU continues strike action including a ban on overtime, teach-ins during tutorials to discuss TSSUs strike mandate and occasionally, picket lines and stoppages to all teaching work performed by TSSU members.

The university recognizes the cost-of-living crisis facing British Columbians and the inflationary pressures that TSSU and other members of the SFU community are facing. Accordingly, SFU has offered the maximum allowable general wage increases provided under the Province’s Shared Recovery Mandate, which directs collective bargaining in B.C.’s public sector. This mandate provides the most generous wage increases negotiated in B.C.‘s public sector in nearly 30 years. The wage offer also delivers on SFU’s commitment to becoming a living wage employer. 

It is not possible for SFU to consider proposals that exceed the provincial mandate.

In recognition that the collective bargaining process is complex and takes time to complete, we have proposed that the pay raises for TSSU members are retroactive to the beginning of the bargaining period. 

What has SFU offered TSSU?

The university remains committed to the bargaining process and has tabled a generous proposal that includes several significant enhancements for TSSU members. These enhancements include a monetary package that sees all TSSU members at or above a living wage, with all pay raises retroactive to beginning of the bargaining period:

  • Year 1 – 3.24% wage increase plus $0.25 as flat rate
  • Year 2 – 6.75% wage increase
  • Year 3 – 2% wage increase plus a potential Cost of Living Adjustment to a maximum of 3%, as determined by the Province

The proposal tabled by the university also includes:

  • Doubling the annual extended health coverage for mental health benefits from $1000 to $2000
  • A commitment to explore the feasibility of including English Language Centre / Interpretation and Translation Program staff (ELC / ITPs) in the BC College Pension Plan.
    Note: this proposal was withdrawn by the university on September 18 as TSSU leadership indicated they would not agree to it
  • Improvements to benefit allowances for Teaching Assistants, including: increases to lifetime coverage, vision care, acupuncture, chiropractic, podiatry, hearing and a pay direct prescription card to ensure members are not out of pocket for prescription expenses.
  • A 0.25% flexibility allocation fund included under the mandate in year 1 and 2 of the collective agreement to support mutually beneficial outcomes for both TSSU members and the university, which may include initiatives to support recruitment, retention, or training and development.

Outstanding Bargaining Issues

To date, the university and TSSU have agreed to about half of the 500 non-monetary proposals from TSSU. Though some progress has been made, the university and TSSU leadership remain apart on several fundamental issues.

TSSU leadership is advocating for:

  • Adjustments to the compensation model for Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Sessional Instructors (SIs), which would tie compensation to class size, class delivery method, and to contact type.
  • Changes to the workload review process.
  • Removal of equivalencies that would see costs increases by approximately 65% and limit the opportunity for volunteer opportunities. 

These proposals are not all operationally feasible and result in a compensation package that far exceeds the total allowable funding in the Shared Recovery Mandate.

The TSSU tabled a change to seniority-based criteria for Sessional Instructors to transition to faculty roles, impacting the SFU Faculty Association’s Collective Agreement. Additional TSSU proposals address issues that are beyond the scope of the collective bargaining process, such as graduate student funding for students who are not TSSU members. TSSU leadership has also raised concerns about power imbalances between Faculty members and TAs and has proposed a process that limits contact between faculty and TAs as a solution.

TSSU’s leadership and bargaining committee have asked for several changes that are not possible under the Province’s Shared Recovery Mandate. In addition, they have asked for benefits that exceed those provided to other unions in this bargaining cycle. 

The university is committed to continuing bargaining toward a collective agreement that aligns with the Province’s mandate, and to work with the TSSU leadership and bargaining team to address the fundamentals that are within scope of the Certified Bargaining Unit in a way that addresses the core needs of each party and the sustainable interests of the university community.

Current Status of Bargaining between SFU and TSSU for Research Assistants

The parties are bargaining a first collective agreement for Research Assistants under the Voluntary Recognition Agreement, signed by the parties in 2019. The university and TSSU have paused negotiations at this table while the TSSU organizes Research Assistants and applies directly to the BC Labour Relations Board to certify them as union members.  

While much has been agreed to between the parties, the primary issue between the parties remains who are included individuals for the purposes of this bargaining unit. TSSU leadership seeks that all graduate students who receive compensation from scholarship and/or stipend to be transitioned to employees, regardless of whether they are in an employment relationship or an educational relationship with the university. The university has already transitioned all those in an employment relationship to be employees of SFU.

Collective Bargaining Background

The university is currently in collective bargaining with its four unions and APSA. So far, the university has reached a formal agreement with CUPE Local 3338 and Poly Party, and a tentative agreement with APSA. Negotiations with SFUFA are actively underway.

Since negotiations under the 2022 mandate began in the fall of 2022, SFU’s bargaining teams have focused on reaching deals that meet the core needs of each party, the sustainable interests of the university community while also working within the Province’s Shared Recovery Mandate.