British Columbia

SFU strike: support staff set up pickets, activities disrupted

Simon Fraser University’s teaching support staff started the new semester by forming a picket line Tuesday morning, but planned to take it down and resume bargaining in the afternoon.

Teaching assistants put up picket for morning hours only

Support staff will picket outside SFU's applied sciences building on Tuesday. Classes taught by TSSU members will be cancelled.

Simon Fraser University's teaching support staff started the new semester by forming a picket line on Tuesday morning. 

The strike action is expected to go on until noon, outside the university's applied sciences building in Burnaby.

Activities held in that building will likely be impacted by the picket lines, according to a statement on the University's website. Frosh week events have also been pushed back to start at noon, said the university.

The union represents about 1,500 members and covers teaching assistants, tutors and sessional instructors. They've been without a contract since April 2014.

"We are an integral part of this university and we aren't going to back down until we get a collective agreement that addresses our issues," said Reagan Belan, spokesperson and chief steward for the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) at SFU.

The union wants seniority rights, equal benefits, and protection for teaching assistants when it comes to work hours and salary, said Belan.

The university, which is marking its 50th anniversary this year, said it is committed to the bargaining process.

"We've been at the bargaining table every single time, and the university even asked for mediation recently, which unfortunately, was not successful." SFU director of communications Kurt Heinrich told CBC in a recent interview.

As part of the strike, the union has been withholding last semester's grades.

According to the university, 70.2 percent of undergraduate students have not received their grades for at least one class from last semester. The union has also withheld the grades of six graduate students.

"We've released grades to students who would be otherwise deported or students in the teacher preparation program, who needed those grades to start their jobs in the autumn," explained George Temple with the TSSU.

The university said it's trying to minimize disruption to students during the labour dispute, but if students are concerned, they should visit SFU's student services.

More picketing was scheduled for Wednesday, but it has since been cancelled. The TSSU and SFU's current academic vice-president Jon Driver are scheduled to meet at the bargaining table Tuesday through Thursday. Mediator Vince Ready will step in on Friday if the two sides don't reach an agreement before then.

"I am optimistic, the changes that have happened in the bargaining process in the last two weeks will move us closer to a collective agreement " said Belan.

Listen to the full interview with TSSU's Reagan Belan:SFU Teaching Assistants Strike

With files from Tina Lovgreen

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