Graduate facilitators in the Student Learning Commons vote to unionize

Group becomes first new addition to TSSU in 15 years

Paul Choptuik/The Peak

By Paul Choptuik, Coordinating News Editor

On June 13, the Student Learning Commons’ (SLC) graduate facilitators voted decisively to unionize, becoming the newest educational position at SFU represented by the Teaching Staff Support Union (TSSU).

Speaking previously at the Graduate Student Society (GSS) meeting on June 11, TSSU representative and SLC graduate facilitator, Alicia Massie, noted that though they liked their bosses, working conditions could be improved. Facilitators didn’t have access to health care or maternity rights, and they would sometimes be paid at irregular time intervals.

“We came together as the workers and chatted, and wanted to be able to secure access to protection and basic rights such [as those that] everyone else in the library on campus has,” explained Massie.

Within the SLC, graduate facilitators offer a number of services and are split into four teams: the undergraduate writing team, the graduate writing team, the learning/back-on-track team, and the English as an additional language team. The SLC offers services at all three campuses, with locations and hours posted online. Right now, there are 14 facilitators listed.

“What we did is we applied to join the existing union,” explained Massie. “We’re part of this smallish group that is now part of the TSSU, so we’ll be exactly the same [ . . . ] we’re just a new job category within the union, but we’re all within the same collective agreement and we all function as one big happy family.”

Massie called the voting process “very relaxed.”

“The labour board came to all three campuses, which was great, and everybody got a chance to vote if they wanted to,” she said.

“And it passed overwhelmingly. We got really fantastic support, which is not a surprise but still really nice.”

According to Massie, once the facilitators started talking, the actual unionization process was quick. In part, this was due to a change in B.C. labour laws: when a group submits an application to the labour board, they need only wait five days before voting rather than 10. The process was also helped by the group’s small size and enthusiasm about unionizing.

Before this, the last time the TSSU started to represent a new position was when English Language and Culture/Interpretation and Translation Program (ELC/ITP) instructors joined in 2004.

The TSSU now represents the teaching assistants, tutor markers, sessionals, ELC/ITP instructors, and graduate facilitators in the SLC at SFU.