Research Assistants are worth more than $17

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– Circulated on behalf of Teaching Support Staff Union –

Good Afternoon,

After two years of deliberate delays, cancellations and excuses, your SFU bargaining team finally presented SFU Admin’s proposal on Research Assistant (RA) wages and benefits. As a member of the SFU community, I’m shocked and dismayed at the lack of consideration of the experiences and needs of RAs.

The proposal included:

– A minimum wage of $17 / hr with no increases for the life of the contract when the Metro Vancouver living wage is currently $20.52 / hour.

– No benefits for RAs who happen to be students, which means no MSP / International Student Health Fee coverage. Instead they offered an extra 7% ($1.19 / hr) in place of  benefits, leaves and vacation. The law, however, would require the vast majority of that to go for vacation and stat holiday pay, instead.

– A bare-bones benefits package of extended health, dental, paltry sick leave, and vacation but only for select non-student RAs contracts of 20 hours / week or more and of duration greater than 4 months.

SFU’s 2016-2022 Strategic Research Plan described the need to: “recruit and retain a diverse group of outstanding students, research fellows, and faculty” as critical to ensuring SFU’s research capacity and inspiring the next generation of researchers. With the living wage in Metro Vancouver at $20.52 / hr and inflation soaring, this proposal just doesn’t cut it. Worse, the proposal is a substantial step backward in efforts to address the inequities that precarious research workers face.

There cannot be Equity if those with expensive prescriptions have to choose between medicine and food.

There cannot be Diversity if international student workers net $900 less a year while rents soar.

There cannot be Inclusion if parents cannot afford childcare and other costs.

Through this proposal you have made SFU’s priorities clear. SFU will prioritize communication plans and external consultants, and will pinch every penny when it comes to research workers.

It’s time to get serious and bargain a fair contract for RAs, that means:

– including all RAs in the Union, as was agreed in 2019
– providing benefits and wages comparable to teaching staff including MSP, – – – – extended health and dental coverage
– respecting the critical contributions that RAs give SFU

Sign TSSU’s open letter to SFU President Joy Johnson here.

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