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SFU teaching support staff will line the pickets starting Sept. 28

Around 1,600 members of Simon Fraser University's Teaching Support Staff Union will be going on an indefinite work stoppage from Thursday, Sept. 28.
Members of the Teaching Support Staff Union at SFU will go on indefinite work stoppage from Sept. 28

Members of Simon Fraser University's Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) will be lining the pickets tomorrow, Sept. 28, halting all work indefinitely until an agreement is reached.

The labour union, which represents non-faculty members who teach and do research at SFU, has close to 1,600 people, who will all begin rolling and escalating pickets of the university's three campuses — starting in Surrey on Thursday.

Earlier in March, TSSU had voted to strike, after the previous TSSU/SFU collective agreement expired on April 30, 2022. 

A news release states the decision to escalate its ongoing strike comes from SFU's refusal to offer a reasonable contract after 41 sessions of bargaining and 19 months without a collective agreement.

"SFU's administration is eroding the foundation of the university from underneath their own feet," TSSU spokesperson Dalton Kamish said.

"The majority of our members are graduate students struggling to afford rent, groceries or medications. Without us, there is no SFU — but president Joy Johnson and the board of governors don’t seem to understand that."

The statement said the university administration failed to "adequately respond" to the union's core demands, including a cost-of-living adjustment — "as Metro Vancouver becomes an increasingly expensive place to live, TSSU members have been subjected to successive pay cuts in real wages. SFU's latest proposals continue to lag behind inflation. The union is demanding real pay increases tied to inflation."

According to the statement, the union claimed members are expected to do more work for less pay each semester.

TSSU added, while wages have stagnated, class sizes, administrative duties, and expectations of student support have all increased and the union is demanding a compensation model that reflects their true workload to "stop wage theft."

They are also demanding a better future for instructors. Hundreds of courses at the university rely upon instructors who don’t have access to pension and must reapply for their jobs every term.

Many of these instructors have worked at the university for decades, it said, and they deserve continuing jobs with a year-round commitment and a pension plan that allows them to plan for retirement.

"Not only has SFU refused to accept that instructors deserve a living wage and a better future, its bargaining proposals have made clear the university wants to make their working conditions worse," said spokesperson of TSSU.

"The university has even refused to enshrine in a contract its ostensible commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and protections for survivors of workplace harassment."

Another spokesperson, Jonas Eschenfelder said, SFU wants to be known as a progressive university, but their refusal to commit to basic matters of human rights shows just how committed they really are to the lofty language they use in public statements.