TSSU takes first strike action

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SFU’s Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) commenced job action after serving a 72-hour strike notice to university administration on April 16.

The TSSU is made up of over 1,500 members and represents teaching assistants, tutor markers, sessionals, and the English Language and Culture/Interpretation and Translation Program (ELC/ITP) instructors. The union has been bargaining for over a year now, since its collective agreement with the university expired on April 30, 2014.

TSSU members voted in March with 92 per cent in favour of strike action. The strike mandate allows the union to initiate job action and put pressure on SFU without withdrawing all services.

ELC/ITP instructors are now implementing an overtime ban that will continue indefinitely. The TSSU has communicated the intention to perform further job action as necessary.

As per a request by SFU, an Essential Services Order was put into place on April 21 in order to obligate all SFU staff to maintain operation of the powerhouse and animal care facilities during job action.

The university has confirmed three additional days of bargaining over May 13–15. TSSU chief steward Reagan Belan shared her hopes for these negotiations, stating that the union has been “very vocal about wanting more dates.

“What would be great is if we had meaningful exchanges and actual questions or criticisms about our proposals,” she said.

SFU administration responded in an online update with their own wishes for the upcoming bargaining talks: “We hope those meetings will be productive in advancing proposals and moving toward a mutually agreed Collective Agreement that supports a strong student-[focused] and sustainable learning and research environment across all SFU campuses.”

Belan commented that there has been little direct response from the university regarding their particular requests. “We haven’t really heard any sort of criticism or complaints when we ask for questions or problems that could result from the implementation of that language,” she said.

“Then we can start to amend our proposals to take into account those types of operational realities.”

Some of the TSSU members’ key issues that Belan emphasized were seniority for long-time staff who currently have to reapply each semester, benefits for ELC/ITP members equal to other staff, as well as an improved hiring system.

The university has recognized some of the union’s concerns in their published statements and have expressed the intention of “setting the record straight” in regards to employee benefits, timely remuneration, and safety training for staff.

Administration also added, “We would strongly prefer to avoid any disruption to our students’ academic pursuits or our broader SFU community.”

In a press release, TSSU spokesperson George Temple noted that, “Over the last decade we’ve seen class sizes and workloads increase while funding hasn’t kept pace.

“As SFU approaches its 50th anniversary, our members demand that Senior Administration recommit itself to SFU’s stated mission: to provide quality education and research.”