Contract Wins: TSSU Representation on Health and Safety Committees

As we all prepare for the Fall Semester, we’ve reached the end of this series of blog posts highlighting contract wins from the last round of bargaining.  I hope these posts have helped to show just how much is possible during bargaining, and the changes that can happen when the TSSU membership makes their concerns known!

During the last round of bargaining, the TSSU was able to secure two elected spots on each of SFU’s seven local health and safety committees and the Central University Health and Safety Committee.  These representatives are paid by SFU for their time being involved with the committee, and are also paid for up to eight hours of training each year.  The health and safety committees weren’t always structured this way, however; in 2015, the TSSU approached WorkSafeBC in an effort to have equal representation of unions on campus health and safety committees.  As the TSSU suspected, the inspection report from WorkSafeBC indicated that of the 10 Local Joint Health and Safety Committees at SFU, only two of these had a TSSU representative on the committee, despite the fact that TSSU made up 22% of the workforce on campus at the time (the highest proportion of all of the unions on campus).  Other unions on campus were similarly under-represented, with only CUPE and the Administrative and Professional Staff Association (APSA) having significant representation on all of these committees.  This caused problems regarding communication of health and safety issues between unions and between the SFU administration and the unions, and was actually a violation of the Workers Compensations Act, which states that worker representatives on these committees must be in equal proportion to their relative numbers and risks to health and safety.

The report from WorkSafeBC was just one of the factors that led to the change in the structure of the health and safety committees- long before TSSU gained access to these committees they were involved with other health and safety issues around campus.  In 2013, when the Education Building on SFU Burnaby campus was found to have mould present, the TSSU was a strong advocate for its repair and the health of those working in the Education Building.  When the report identifying mould in the building was released, lack of communication from SFU caused staff, unions, and the Central and Local Health and Safety Committees to be concerned that the processes that were supposed to take care of these issues were not adequate.  This caused a lot of upset in the SFU community, and pressure from TSSU members played an important role in getting the much need repairs underway in the Education Building.

The re-structuring of the health and safety committees has allowed the TSSU to bring health and safety issues around campus to the attention of the university and insist that action be taken, such as bullying and harassment, mass evacuation in the event of a fire, campus closures due to snow, and overheated workspaces.  By being better represented on health and safety committees, TSSU members have made, and continue to make, many contributions across all three campuses that make the university a safer place to work for all of us.

You can learn more about the repairs in the Education Building from this great article published in The Peak and written by TSSU member Mohamed Sheriffdeen:  This article was nominated for an investigative journalism award and is well worth the read!

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