Simon Fraser University (SFU) has continually delayed the process of bargaining for recently unionized Research Assistants and Grant Employees (RAs), so over a thousand RAs are still bearing healthcare expenses rather than receiving employer-paid coverage that all other SFU employees receive. Sign this petition to demand that SFU immediately cover RA benefits, including the onerous and discriminatory International Student Health Fee (ISHF), and stop their delays!
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of accessible, immediate, and affordable health care, and yet Research Assistants and Grant Employees (RAs) at Simon Fraser University (SFU) currently do not have access to any employer-paid benefits. Of particular concern is the International Student Health Fee (ISHF), an expense of $75 per month that is currently not covered for RAs by SFU. All RAs deserve healthcare benefits, and we demand that SFU pay the ISHF for RAs immediately. All other employees at SFU receive healthcare benefits.
On November 15, 2019, SFU and the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) signed a Memorandum of Agreement of Voluntary Recognition (“Agreement”) recognizing TSSU as the union for RAs. This followed months of organizing and pressure from RAs during the Research Is Work campaign
This victory should have begun the process of getting all RAs the rights and benefits they deserve, but SFU is stalling. Over a year has elapsed and despite TSSU’s notices to SFU Administration, they have failed to keep to the timeline and fulfill their terms of the Agreement. This includes providing the union with an up-to-date list of RAs, commencing bargaining and transitioning RAs to employees in May 2020, significantly delaying bargaining and gaining rights and benefits for RAs that all employees at SFU already have. As noted on the website of the VP Research: “SFU enjoys the fastest growing research income among research universities in Canada, having surpassed $100-million in 2013 and reached $161-million in 2019.” This income is built upon the work of RAs, yet many RAs receive below minimum wage and have no health benefits. This is extremely unfair.
Had SFU adhered to the terms of the agreement, RAs could already have benefits. It is unacceptable that RAs still do not have access to benefits due to SFU’s endless delays, especially during such a time of insecurity. Prior to the pandemic, SFU Administration refused to pay the International Student Health Fee (ISHF) for Teaching Assistants (TAs), Tutor Markers (TMs) and Sessional Instructors (SIs) until we launched a campaign demanding they honour our right to employer paid ISHF coverage. We won back ISHF coverage for these members before we entered into a pandemic. We are committed to fighting for this right for RAs in bargaining; since SFU will not come to the table, we are fighting for this right with the circulation of this petition.
We demand that SFU Admin immediately:
- recognize all RAs as workers, including those whose work overlaps with their studies;
- provide healthcare and dental benefits for all RAs, including group MSP enrollment for the International Student Health Fee;
- reimburse the International Student Health Fee for all RAs, backdated to September 1, 2020, to provide immediate relief;
- begin bargaining with TSSU for a first collective agreement for RAs.