While the below letter on the revised procedures was presented to CJ Rowe, who was tasked with receiving feedback, our comments are directed to the University's senior administration, where responsibility for the policy rests.
May 13, 2022
Re: SFU’s Review of GP 47 Policy and Procedures
As you may know, the Employee Council is a joint forum of CUPE, the Poly Party, SFUFA, TSSU and APSA. As we have common concerns regarding SFU’s Bullying and Harassment Policy (GP 47), its associated procedures and especially their application to our members, we write in unity regarding the University’s review.
As we have noted in previous communications with the University, whether as an individual employee group or in unison, there has been a marked increase in bullying and harassment cases over the past few years at SFU. Since the bullying and harassment policy changes made in May 2021, the problems with transparency and effectiveness of the policy’s application and associated procedures have only grown.
In developing the most recent (2021) version of the GP47 policy the University committed to consulting with the employee groups. The employee groups made a variety of recommendations and suggestions to the University, including the need for an independent bullying and harassment office. None of our substantive recommendations or suggestions were included in the revised policy. This is not consultation.
Furthermore in advertising the then-revised policy, the University communicated to staff that this policy was revised “in consultation with the Employee Groups”. Not only was this an audacious statement, but it was one that created conflict as we were put in a position where we had to correct this statement and communicate what actually occurred to our membership(s).
Our key issues with the policy, its procedures and their application include:
- Lack of meaningful consultation with SFU employee groups (as described above);
- Lack of a trauma-informed approach by SFU for the entire complaint. This includes its investigation and subsequent restorative measures;
- Lack of acknowledgement of how power disparities inhibit employees, especially employees in precarious situations (such as temporary or contract staff), from coming forward to make a complaint;
- Lack of robust protection for complainants facing real or perceived risk of retaliation;
- Lack of transparency throughout the process. This includes among others: o Assurance that respondents get to see a detailed written statement of allegations prior to any meeting with an investigator;
- Clear and substantive definition of the components of an investigation report. Such definition should include consultation with the employee groups;
- Assurance that unredacted reports are sent to the bargaining units in all investigations as soon as they are sent to the University;
- Lack of consultation with relevant employee groups prior to a given investigation. This includes, among others:
- Consultation on the Terms of Reference with the relevant bargaining group prior to an investigation;
- Substantive arrangements with relevant bargaining groups to ensure the protection of complainants, especially employees in precarious work situations (such as temporary or contract employees) from retaliation.
- A central hub, which was not the independent office that all the employee groups requested, adds an unnecessary, extra step to complaints, lengthening an already extended process and also increases the number of people aware of confidential employee complaints;
- Provision for complaints to be submitted in writing to the relevant office, rather than using the prescribed form;
- Lack of clear timelines for investigations and for decisions/action after investigatory reports are received;
- Expectation that investigators are external to the University unless agreed by all parties, including the relevant bargaining units;
- Interpretation of the interim measures (14.0), investigation results, disciplinary decisions, and other recommendations are placed on the lowest level of supervisor (17.0). This should be the responsibility of SFU personnel who have the appropriate training and support;
- A lack of effective restorative measures such as in 4.5 of the revised procedures (“efforts will be made to mitigate the impact of a substantiated Report”) do little to enhance our faith and our member’s faith in the University’s restorative practices.
It is in the best interests of the University and the Employee Groups to re-engage in a true consultative process on a revised GP47. A proper process, and a revised policy and procedures, would do much to increase trust between the Employee Groups and the University and fulfill SFU’s goal of an equitable workplace.
Should the difficulties we have identified with the policy, its associated procedures and execution of the same persist, we will initiate our own independent, third-party evaluation of the policy and its procedures.
Andrew Boden, APSA
Fiona Brady, CUPE 3888
Brian Green, SFUFA
Derek Sahota, TSSU
Christina Brock, the Poly Party