Strikes and Job Action
In the event of job action at SFU, the Collective Agreement, Article 10, and two policies govern how faculty might be impacted: GP 05 (which deals with strike policy in general) and A 30.05, which speaks to SFUFA members as well as some other instructional staff. The following is intended to provide guidance as to how the strike policy is typically implemented for various categories of SFUFA member, and may help clarify some matters and assist you in strike-related decision-making. This is only a general guide; members should familiarize themselves with the official policies, whose authority supersedes this interpretive memo.
To Cross or Not to Cross:
All members have the right to honour a picket line. Librarians and Archivists, Teaching Faculty, Research Faculty, Practitioner Faculty, and Department Chairs or Directors all share the same rights in this regard. No one should be intimidated or coerced into crossing or not crossing a picket line – this decision is recognized in law as one of personal conscience, and must be respected as such. Neither may any member face any disciplinary sanction for the decision to honour a picket line. Salary may be reduced commensurate with work not performed, but no further penalty should be suffered or threatened. In the case of Department Chairs and Directors, an additional administrative role exists above and beyond the standard faculty role. Chairs/ Directors cannot be compelled to cross a picket line, but should they choose to do so such that the University deems they are unable to perform their administrative duties, an interim Chair/ Director may be appointed for the duration of the job action. For the purposes of the strike policy, Division Heads in the Library are treated as Chairs, though strike-related salary deductions for this group are calculated as they are for all Librarians (see below).
Respecting a picket line is not simply about not physically crossing it. A picket is intended to stop work from proceeding in the targeted area for the targeted time. That is to say, when respecting a picket line one should not move classes or meetings to another location or to zoom, which undermines the intent. A decision to respect a picket line is a decision to allow the impact of the job action to be felt. That said, there are exceptional situations in which one may get permission to cross a picket line from the striking union itself – for example, research that involves the care of plants or animals may require one to cross a picket even though one would prefer not to. In these cases, the member is advised to speak to a TSSU picket captain for what is called a ‘picket pass’, which indicates the striking union recognizes and approves the special circumstance.
The general rule for salary deductions that result from a members’ decision to respect a picket line is this: 1/10th of biweekly salary will be deducted for each day of work missed. GP 05 is clear that deduction is not based on the hours one might be in the classroom, but to the day as a whole.
The policies do not define ‘duration of a strike’, and so there is some flexibility as to whether salary deductions are based on the full length of job action, individually affected days or – in rare cases – hours. Typically, if strike action is intermittent and or sporadic at a particular location, the University will consider the particular days affected individually; for example, though you may indicate your intention to respect a picket line, if pickets are intermittent you will only be docked pay for those days that your classes and/ or campus duties are affected. In the event of a full-scale strike, however, the University will likely not calculate the individual days you would have been required to be on campus, but will base its payroll deductions on the period as a whole. Though not as definitive as some might hope, this nuanced application of the policy does in fact serve the interests of members by limiting the extent of salary loss in times of sporadic picketing.
In the case members who may have more regularly-defined hours of work, there may be occasions on which pay is docked on an hourly basis. For example, where a site is picketed for a period of hours, and members choose not to work during those hours, the University will base the salary deduction on the actual hours missed. Normally this is relatively straightforward, a week being considered 35 working hours and the hours missed deducted from that. In rare instances where a job action impacts a non-working period such a lunch hour, however, still more adjustments may be necessary. In these cases, we would expect the University to consult with SFUFA regarding what is appropriate.
Again, the decision to honour or cross a picket line is an individual matter of conscience. As we have seen in recent months, across our sector and around the world, job action can sometimes be the only method by which labour groups are able to uphold their rights and persuade employers to work with them to resolve contract negotiations. Strikes at universities, and even strikes by Faculty Associations, are not the rare events they once were, and members should be sure to familiarize themselves with the policies and protocols in place during times of job action.
The above is only a general outline of how SFU policies regarding job action are most likely to affect SFUFA members. We understand that individual work arrangements may not fit neatly into those contemplated by the policies, but hope that this will help to clarify matters for most people. Should your situation not be addressed by the terms in the policies, please don’t hesitate to contact the SFUFA office.