On November 15, 2019 SFU and TSSU signed a Memorandum of Agreement of Voluntary Recognition (“Agreement”) recognizing TSSU as the bargaining agent for research assistants (RAs) and grant employees.
This Agreement was the result of a successful organizing drive led by a grassroots team of organizers that resulted in the signing of over 924 membership cards out of approximately 1300-1500 workers.
From November 2019 to May 2020, SFU violated every fundamental term of the agreement: they withheld necessary contact information of RA members from the Union, indefinitely postponed the recognition of any RAs at SFU as employees, and are attempting to radically limit the RA category, leaving out all scholarship, stipend, and work-study employees.
In response, the TSSU membership voted to pursue legal action against the University, and we filed for arbitration.
After two days of mediation with the Union, SFU was issued an order to relinquish a list of well-over 1,500 research assistants (RAs) to TSSU by June 23, 2020.
While we are satisfied with this outcome, this data should have been provided to the Union within 30 days of the signing of the November 15, 2019 Voluntary Recognition Agreement.
The process of sorting through this list and determining eligibility will now finally begin as promised. RAs and others on the list should expect to be contacted by TSSU over the coming weeks. However, due to SFU’s questionable administrative practices, not everyone on the given list are or will be TSSU members.
It has been at great cost to RAs and their Union that it has taken over half a year for SFU Admin to honour their word. The University would have surely continued to drag its feet if we didn’t put up a fight. It is only because of our collective power as a union and as a movement that we have been able to secure the implementation of this first step outlined in the Voluntary Recognition Agreement signed last year. We thank the greater SFU and labour communities for their enduring support for RAs at the University.
Our work is not over. We expect the University to continue to treat RAs as second-class members of the SFU community. RAs must continue to fight for the recognition of their research as work – together, we can make sure all 1,500+ research assistants will be recognized as employees of the University and that bargaining commences as soon as possible. We will not stop until we’ve won the benefits and rights that all other SFU employees receive: health benefits, sick leave, MSP coverage, and more!