Bargaining Update - September 2019
Since the inclusion of Graduate Facilitators (GFs) into the TSSU bargaining unit in June 2019, we have dedicated a significant amount of time negotiating their terms and conditions of employment. As GFs are a brand new group of employees to this collective agreement, negotiating their language takes considerable time and attention to ensure that it accurately reflects the work they do. We have made significant progress, but there is more work to do with GFs.
In September we focused on the terms and conditions of Teaching Assistants (TAs), with the intention of moving on next to Sessional Instructors (SIs), Tutor Markers (TMs), ELC and ITP instructors and, of course as mentioned finalizing details for GFs. At our meeting on September 16th, we provided TSSU with 8 counter proposals for TAs and Conditional upon Enrollment language and, in a half-day session on September 19th, we discussed 6 articles and presented counter proposals in the “administrative” category – that is, areas which impact all TSSU employees and/or members.
At our meeting on September 19th, we discussed one of TSSU’s recurring themes embedded in their proposals in this and in previous rounds of bargaining; language intended to address what the Union has called the “power imbalance.” TSSU describes the impact of this as the reluctance of their members to come forward with workload or pay concerns due to a fear of reprisal such as not being rehired or receiving a negative reference. The University acknowledged that many TSSU members have dual roles at SFU (student and employee), but expressed the view that there is an abundance of language in the collective agreement to specifically address work load reviews and to provide safeguards to ensure that TSSU members are compensated and treated fairly. In support of our view we pointed to a recent Arbitration Decision that speaks directly to the issue of power imbalance. In his Decision, Arbitrator Hall stated that the TSSU/SFU Collective Agreement contains language for members to rely on to ensure they can invoke their rights in this regard. The Arbitrator was referring specifically to work load reviews and the robust system in the collective agreement intended to require both the Course Supervisor and the TSSU member to discuss workload regularly throughout the assignments and to identify workload issues at the earliest opportunity. TSSU has proposed that the University should establish a monetary fund from which funds can be distributed to TAs who they feel are not compensated appropriately. The University has countered that such a solution in our view serves to undermine the purpose of an effective compensation methodology and fails to address the underlying issue claimed by TSSU. The University has proposed that we work together to explore creative ways to ensure our employees are confidently able to use the existing provisions of their collective agreement to raise matters pertaining to workload and compensation.
SFU will continue to consider all TSSU proposals through a lens of support aligned to our core principles of maximizing opportunities to provide students with financial support and teaching experience and to address priorities such as: the simplification and streamlining of processes and language wherever possible; and an improved student experience promoted by ensuring that the most qualified applicants are prioritized for work opportunities.
The SFU Bargaining Team is made up of representatives from Labour Relations, faculty and department administrators. If you are interested in learning more about the key issues, please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org