Open letter from SFU faculty in support of striking workers

by Stephen Petrina on November 6, 2012

Open Letter on the SFU labour dispute:

We, the undersigned SFU faculty members, are in solidarity with the TSSU and CUPE in their struggle for better working conditions.

The workers represented by TSSU and CUPE deserve a better deal — they deserve better working conditions, they deserve a better wage, and they deserve more respect from their employer for the work they do.

And they deserve a real contract, having been without one for two years now.The campus unions’ struggle, however, goes beyond their immediate bargaining demands. The primary mission of this public university — to teach its students well — is not accomplished only in the classroom. It is also accomplished by the example the university sets.

The university should be an engaging and engaged intellectual environment, and a good and fair and decent place to work. But working conditions at SFU have been worsening for years. Wages have been frozen while workloads have risen.

The educational system is under increasing stress, from reduced faculty numbers to larger classes, from rapidly rising fees to streamlined academic programs.

Students are paying more for reduced programs, and graduate student workers are being paid less for doing more work. Everyone is told to “do more with less.” But that is another word for austerity at SFU and in the university sector in BC at large.

The university administration is passing on the burden of austerity to its workers. While administrators raise their salaries at a rate faster than faculty and staff salaries, while resources are diverted to areas of the university that are not of direct benefit to its education mission, SFU’s most vulnerable employees — TAs, sessionals, contingent faculty and staff — are being hit the hardest.

The TSSU and CUPE struggle is a struggle against this austerity. It is more than a demand for better wages for the unions’ members; its aim is more than better working conditions.

Its aim is for a better university, a university worthy of being called a place of higher education. It is a demand for a university that is truly engaged in the world and that is a truly engaging place to work and teach and learn.

In other words, TSSU and CUPE’s struggle is a struggle that concerns every member of the SFU community and we should all, wholeheartedly, support and engage in this struggle.