The Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) represents TAs, Tutor Markers, Sessionals, and other non-faculty teaching and research staff. It has legally issued a strike notice to SFU and began using picket lines in mid-June. This situation will change as this strike evolves. This may include more picket lines, overtime bans, teach-ins, refusal of certain kinds of work, demonstrations, events, and so on.
The Collective Agreement between SFU and TSSU expired on April 30, 2022 and bargaining a new agreement has reached an impasse despite professional mediation. This has led TSSU to start a strike as a legal tool to get SFU back to the bargaining table without demanding concessions that will hurt TSSU members.
Your TAs, Sessionals, and other support staff will be impacted and things may change quickly. Your Faculty (represented by another Union called SFUFA) may or may not cross a picket line, so you may see classes canceled, rescheduled, or moved. Your Instructors (represented by TSSU or SFUFA) may tell you in advance or afterward how they will make arrangements if a class is canceled by the strike.
It is up to YOUR INSTRUCTOR if…
- They will cross a picket line or not
- A class behind a picket line is canceled or not, though SFU leadership may make other arrangements in the event of a large disruption
- If they will grant extensions, makeup assignments/exams, and/or other academic concessions
It is up to YOU…
- Whether you cross a picket line or not. Neither action is illegal. Non-unionized folks have the unquestionable right to cross or not
- If you are experiencing excessive hardship because of the strike (a negative impact on your immigration status for example) please contact email@example.com for assistance
A picket line is NOT a protest, though it sometimes looks like one. A picket line is when workers withhold their labour in a show of collective strength when they are having issues with their employer and this is a fundamental right recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada. Other unionized workers are expected not to cross picket lines in an act of solidarity, so a TSSU picket line may impact workers who are unionized under SFUFA (Faculty), CUPE (some University Admin Staff, Custodians, Librarians, Residence workers, SFSS Staff, GSS staff, SFPIRG, and campus mail support), Poly Party (skilled trades workers), and APSA (University Admin Staff), and potentially even Transit. A picket line could block one part of a building, a whole building, several buildings, or the entire campus.
Before you leave home, check your email and Canvas for updates from your instructor and/or SFU. If there is no news, assume that class is proceeding as planned. If class is still on, YOU have a choice to make and there are consequences either way.
You can respect the picket line and refuse to cross it. This right is protected by Senate Motion S00-018 which also makes it your responsibility to email your instructor promptly to say that you were not in class because of your choice to respect the picket line. Your instructor will hopefully work with you to make alternate arrangements for marked work you may have missed. If they don’t work with you, contact the SFSS Student Advocate, Trish, at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will try to help work through the conflict. You can also contact your department head/chair/dean or the University Ombuds Office at email@example.com.
You can choose to cross the line, and if your instructor is refusing to allow makeup work, you should explain that to the picket captain. They may understand and allow you to pass with minimal fuss. It’s recommended to communicate your circumstances to the picket captain to avoid or minimize any eventual unpleasant tensions.
You should not be blocked from crossing a picket line, but if you are, your best option is leave the area and contact your instructor informing them of the situation. If you run into any issues or unreasonable conflict on a picket line, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com with details of what happened.
- GET INFORMED: learn more about what is going on and make an informed decision about where you stand on the issue. Two good places to look are:
- CHECK IN WITH YOUR INSTRUCTORS: each Instructor may do something different, so check in with them about their plans if there are picket lines blocking class if they haven’t informed you already what they plan to do and what academic concessions they are willing to grant in the event you do not want to cross a picket line.
- COMMUNICATE YOUR INTENTIONS: tell your Instructor what your intention is if the class is behind a picket line. If a class is going ahead and you won’t cross the line, but you let your Instructor know in advance, ideally in writing by email, you should have the opportunity to plan ahead to arrange academic concessions (if the professor is willing). If it comes to having to challenge the situation, you are also on much firmer ground if you need to appeal grades, apply for a Withdrawal Due to Extenuating Circumstances, or otherwise seek redress for academic harm for refusing to cross a picket line.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to speak with the Registrar’s Office.
This is a tough situation to be in. If you must attend class for academic reasons and no concessions are being granted, check in with the picket captain at the picket line you need to cross to get to class. TSSU is aware that this situation will occur and they should respond with compassion.
If you are unhappy about academic concessions being granted at the discretion of faculty when students respect picket lines, consider emailing the SFU Senate to inform them of your situation and the need to address this issue through policy. Contact email@example.com. The decision to require faculty to make concessions for students who respect picket lines, or not, lies ultimately with them and the Simon Fraser University Faculty Association (SFUFA).
You may consider withdrawing from the course in question (the drop deadline through GoSFU is October 31, 2023 with a WD notation). Otherwise, your best option is to document EVERYTHING. Get your Professor’s refusal to grant a concession in writing by email, or screenshots of Canvas, or any other concrete written confirmation that they will not accommodate you. Email your Professors and tell them you are respecting a picket line and that is the only reason you will not be in class. You want to create a paper trail showing why you weren’t in class (the strike), what you tried to do (seeking academic concessions), and the academic impact the refusal of those concessions had on you (presumably a low grade). This should leave you in a stronger position to apply for a Withdrawal Due to Extenuating Circumstances or to proceed through whatever other University process is developed to handle such cases.
As of early October, there is a lot of discussion about how SFU will address these cases, but no firm decisions have been made as to what that looks like. In short, “GET RECEIPTS”, as you will need them later. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about tuition refunds in this situation.
Every union local may have different rules around respecting picket lines and some penalize members for crossing. Please contact your union local’s leadership for clarification on this issue as it applies in your given situation.
I have questions, I need help, and/or the strike is causing me undue hardship:
I need to talk to TSSU:
I need to talk to SFU: