Teaching Support Staff Union at SFU Serve Strike Notice

On Thursday, September 27th, the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) at Simon Fraser University has served their employer, Simon Fraser University, with a 72 hour strike notice.

SFU and TSSU have been in mediation since their June 28th strike vote. The mediator has now “booked out,” thereby ending mediation. “After twenty-six months at the table with negligible progress, it is now clear that the Employer at SFU will not bargain with us unless we take action,” said Derek Sahota of the TSSU.

The TSSU has a 90% strike mandate from its members. Job actions will commence on Monday. The union has not made public what kind of labour actions they have planned.

Sahota says that TSSU will do all they can to limit the impact on students “while doing what is necessary to get our employer to address critical issues facing the University.” The TSSU represents teaching assistants, distance course teachers, continuing instructors, and sessional instructors.

While the average gross income of grad students at SFU has not significantly changed since 2000, yearly tuition has increased by more than 200% — from $2,304 in 2000-2001 to $4,984 for 2012-2013. Fees and the cost of food and shelter are also on the rise.

After paying tuition, the average SFU graduate student has an income, including all sources, of $12,000 per year, according to TSSU.

According to the union’s website, “to solve this TSSU is trying at the bargaining table to gain automatic TA wage increases that are tied partially to both tuition increases and cost of living increases.”

Members of TSSU face the same problems as TAs at UBC, whose meager wages have been eroded over recent years by tuition increases and rising costs of living. UBC’s CUPE 2278 has sent TSSU a message of solidarity and asks that its members respect all picket lines.

TAs are not the only ones struggling for a better contract at SFU: distance teachers are covered by contract language and pay formulas that were written before the use of e-mail and other web tools. Meanwhile, full-time sessional instructors, “although highly qualified, have no seniority rights, minimal benefits, and are paid less than 1/2 of what a Lecturer is paid for the same work,” said Sahota.