Update on TSSU Application to Labour Relations Board

August 24, 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 for research assistants

In 2018, SFU signed a Voluntary Recognition Agreement with the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU), which recognized TSSU as the union representing graduate student research assistants who are employees of the university as defined by the labour code. 

The university and TSSU have been in dispute over a fundamental issue: whether graduate students who receive stipends and scholarship are considered employees under the labour code. This group of graduate students conducts research for their own scholarly pursuits, and accordingly the university does not recognize them as employees under the labour code. This position is supported in the Voluntary Recognition Agreement arbitration award from arbitrator Jim Dorsey. The university has transitioned all research assistant graduate students who have been deemed to be in an employment relationship under the labour code to be employees of SFU.

On August 11th, the TSSU submitted an application to the BC Labour Relations Board (LRB) to request a variance to their certification to include “non-faculty research assistants and grant employees including research assistants, research support, and other research-related workers and excluding University Research Associates, and postdoctoral fellows.” This variance would mean that the group of graduate students who are not considered employees under the labour code, because their research at SFU is for their own scholarly pursuits and other factors, would be included in the TSSU negotiations.  

As a next step, TSSU and SFU have mutually agreed to a hearing that is scheduled for February 2024. This date was agreed upon by all parties to allow both the university and TSSU to properly prepare their respective cases. 

The university welcomes the involvement of the LRB to conclude this dispute. The university will communicate LRB’s decision on the variance application as soon as this is received following the hearing in February 2024.

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.