RA Bargaining Update

RA Update #2: SFU demonstrates its commitment to violating the Voluntary Recognition Agreement

Today we met with SFU Administration for our second session of negotiations for the first Collective Agreement for Research Assistants and Grant Employees (RAs). At the last session, we gave them comprehensive proposals, so today the Employer gave initial reactions to our proposals and asked questions. 

A key impression we were left with is that SFU Administration is trying to rewrite the Voluntary Recognition Agreement (“Agreement”) which was signed by SFU and TSSU on November 15, 2019.  Explicitly included in the Agreement on the page titled “Appendix: Implementation Details” are “research assistants and grant employees, including but not limited to: those individuals who receive compensation from grants as scholarship and/or stipend, holders of NSERC USRA and equivalent funded by SFU, [and] work-study employees.” 

SFU Administration has directed faculties and departments to circulate a document titled “Voluntary Recognition and Becoming a Union Member.” Included in this document is a definition of Research Assistant that entirely contradicts the definition in the Agreement and excludes individuals that have already been agreed upon. Continuing this pattern of avoiding the needs of graduate research workers, SFU Administration also stated that they will not negotiate on core needs like increasing guaranteed minimum funding.

There seems to be consensus around the importance of maintaining current practice in graduate students being directly appointed to RA positions by members of their supervisory committee. However, we also need to ensure that RAs have the basics of the employment relationships: the work to be performed, the rate to be paid, outlined for all appointments 

TSSU reiterated at the bargaining table today, that our goal for bargaining is to come to an agreement on the terms and conditions for Research Assistants and Grant Employees that covers all those under the umbrella of the Voluntary Recognition Agreement. SFU Administration’s efforts to undermine and ignore that Agreement are disheartening and only delay our goal to ensure that world class researchers at SFU are respected for the vital labour they perform.

At the next bargaining session, we will discuss counter proposals from the Employer. That will be on April 15th from 9:30am to 4pm. Please email for more information or if you’re interested in attending a bargaining session.

In addition, there are many ways you can help us get to the first RA Collective Agreement:

  1. Sign and Share our petition! You can share our social media posts (Facebook, Twitter)
  2. Share your RA Stories (either anonymously here or send them to
  3. Get involved in our campaign! Join our Membership Mobilization Committee (contact for more info) 

Share this bargaining update with your caucus & discuss the details with your department stewards. Does your department have questions? We’d be more than happy to come answer them. Email or

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