We Won Our Union!

Fairness. Dignity. Respect

A better life for RAs.

It’s the clarity and protection of TA work, covered by TSSU, that I appreciated most. It’s nice to have people in the union that can help you or a collective agreement to consult. Why is everything about being an RA so opaque? An RAship is like a blackbox.

Anonymous RA in the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology


Joint Communication, November 19, 1pm
Simon Fraser University and TSSU collaborate to recognize the important contributions of research assistants at SFU

On November 15, 2019, Simon Fraser University and the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) agreed to make research assistants (RAs) employees of the University and voluntarily recognize them as members of TSSU. This agreement was made to recognize the valuable contributions and important role RAs play in advancing SFU’s Research mission. It was signed by Sandi de Domenico, SFU’s Associate Vice-President, Human Resources, and Derek Sahota, TSSU’s Member Advocate on behalf of the Research is Work organizing team, and was endorsed by Jeff Derksen, Dean and Associate Provost, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, SFU, Joy Johnson, Vice-President, Research and International; Dugan O’Neil, Associate Vice-President, Research, SFU, and Jonathan Driver, Vice President Academic and Provost pro tem, SFU.

SFU and TSSU have mutually agreed to make all eligible RAs employees of the University by May 2020. This agreement means that the University and TSSU will work together on a timeline and a solution that considers the needs of RAs and faculties, recognizing RAs’ right to unionize. Once RAs become employees, SFU and TSSU will begin negotiating the terms and conditions of employment. As employees of the University, RAs will be formally recognized as members of the SFU Community and faculty principal investigators will have support to administer the employment of RAs.

This collaboration between SFU and TSSU is a significant step forward in supporting the University’s ability to continue to be competitive and expand innovative research and recognizing the significant contributions RAs make to the University. In 2018, SFU launched the Research Personnel Initiative to update the R50 Policies governing RAs, research associates and postdoctoral fellows to make them employees. Over recent months, RAs have been organizing to join TSSU to gain better representation for their work. The first phase of the Research Personnel Initiative to onboard eligible postdoctoral fellows (PDFs) as employees has allowed the University to pilot processes and learn more about what will be needed to support the transition the RAs.

Faculties and their administration will be supported throughout this transition, as there is a high level of diversity and complexity in the different roles of RAs. The first step for the project leaders will be to work with faculties to understand and define the work performed by approximately 1500 RAs across SFU.

At this time, detailed information will be limited until the first phase of identifying RAs and their current terms and conditions is completed. TSSU will meet with the project leaders every 30 days during the transition and updates will be posted to the HR website in the coming weeks.


Dugan O’Neil
Associate Vice President, Research
Simon Fraser University
Lillian Deeb and Scott Yano
Chief Stewards
Teaching Support Staff Union
Sandi de Domenico
Associate Vice President, Human Resources
Simon Fraser University
Derek Sahota
Teaching Support Staff Union

Research is Work!
We are research assistants (RAs) at SFU campaigning to unionize with the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU). In two months, over 900 research assistants have signed union cards – that’s over 900 research assistants who are demanding their democratic right to choose to join a union!

What Problems Do We Face as RAs?
X No guaranteed rights or benefits
X Late pay, inconsistent pay, no pay
X Substandard working conditions
X No guaranteed employment
X Unclear contracts, no contracts

How Do We Unionize?
1. Sign a union card! We have until November 21 to collect signed cards from 45% of all RAs at SFU
2. Vote! The BC Labour Relations Board will hold a cross-campus, secret-ballot vote for all RAs to say YES to a union! If we demonstrate enough collective power, the Employer can also choose to voluntarily recognize that TSSU is the union who represents RAs.

Who can sign a card?
Anyone who receives or is owed compensation for RA work performed during the Fall 2019 semester can sign a card.
✓ Graduate RAs
✓ International RAs
✓ Undergraduate RAs
✓ Non-student RAs

How can I be sure if I’m an RA?
✓ If your contract says you’re an RA
✓ If your job title says RA on myinfo.sfu.ca
✓ If you’re receiving compensation through SFU (pay, scholarship, etc.) for research
✓ If you’re receiving an RA top-off *
✓ Still not sure? Contact us!

*An RA top-off if often paid in addition to TA pay or a Graduate Fellowship to honour your guaranteed funding amounts. This is common in the Faculty of Sciences and Applied Sciences! Often this top-off is paid as scholarship income. This makes you an eligible RA: sign a union card today!

Do people have to know I signed?
Only if you want to tell them. Your right to unionize is protected by BC Labour Law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Your are not required to disclose your involvement in this campaign to anyone, including your supervisors, departmental staff, or SFU Administration. Contact us immediately if you are concerned that your rights are not being respected.