In a Tuesday media release, the SFU Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) said some 1,600 teaching staff were set to begin an “indefinite work stoppage” on Sept. 28, when members would being rolling and escalating pickets at the school’s three campuses.
“SFU’s administration is eroding the foundation of the university from underneath their own feet,” teaching assistant and communications PhD candidate Dalton Kamish said in a statement.
“The majority of our members are graduate students struggling to afford rent, groceries or medications. Without us there is no SFU.”
The union said its members provide up to half of the instruction at the university every day, and have been without a contract for 19 months.
It is calling for a cost-of-living wage adjustment, a pay model that takes into account bigger class sizes and growing duties and more job stability and security.
In its own statement, SFU said it had met three times with the union in the last week when it proposed a contract “with movement on key issues that support the goals of both parties.” The union, it said, refused the deal and refused to move on any key issues.
“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,” the school said.
“We recognize that strike action can put a strain on relationships between an employer and employees. Our focus remains on the academic success of our students, supporting our outstanding faculty and staff, and nurturing a thriving, world-class research environment. ”
Uncertainty for students
The looming strike would likely mean a major disruption for students.
SFU said job action would mean teaching support staff would not hold classes, tutorials or labs, supervise exams, grade work or correspond with students.
Picket lines would also prevent other unionized employees from entering school facilities.
Rotating pickets have, so far, been announced for Thursday at SFU’s Surrey Campus, Friday at SFU’s Vancouver Campus, and next Tuesday at SFU’s Burnaby campus.
The university is urging faculty to communicate with their students as soon as possible about how picket lines may affect their classes, and to let them know of their intentions and expectations.
It’s not clear when the two sides could be back at the table.
SFU said it has called on the union to continue meeting twice per week, but that TSSU leadership has not responded or agreed to future dates.