It has been 684 days that Research Assistants and Grant Employees (RAs) have been without a Contract.
SFU Administration continues to delay by cancelling bargaining sessions and showing up unprepared to meaningfully negotiate. Shamefully, they have needed to be reminded several times about what they had already agreed to and be led by the hand through basic facts about how RA work actually functions. At the August 18th bargaining session, after three months of delays by SFU Administration, they acted in bad faith by going back on their word at the bargaining table. These delays mean that RAs continue to be left without critical protections and benefits.
Since that last session not much has changed. At our half-day session on September 16th, SFU Administration came, once again, unprepared to negotiate. Despite being responsible for providing an overview of SFU’s position on monetary items (such as wages and benefits), they were unwilling to make any concrete statements. Instead they talked about broad “concepts” and hypothetical positions. This is unacceptable and is another example of SFU Administration wasting RAs’ time.
SFU says RAs shouldn’t get a living wage for “washing beakers and bottles”
At another half-day session on September 22nd, we presented our detailed monetary proposal and a counter to their latest proposal. Much of the session focussed on wages: our view is that RA work is critical to the University so RAs should be paid wages comparable to teaching support staff, and should receive the same basic protections and benefits. SFU Administration continues to argue that paying RAs a living wage would hurt the institution; at this bargaining session our employer claimed there are RAs who would end up being paid $25 per hour “to clean beakers,” that reveals just how little SFU Administration understands research work.
As the people actually carrying out the million-dollar research at this institution, we know RAs perform a variety of critical tasks, from transcription, to data analysis, to calibrating expensive equipment, to publishing world-leading research. Some of this work requires washing bottles and beakers—this is also work that must be done as part of research! Critical, ground-breaking research is simply not possible without effective research assistants, including those who keep labs safe, sanitary, and “world class”. Every worker deserves a living wage and fair benefits. We need to make sure SFU Administration hears that loud and clear.
RAs rally at Strand Hall, saying enough is enough
RAs and allies rallied outside Strand Hall at lunchtime on Thursday, September 23 to tell SFU Administration that enough is enough! We are tired of their broken promises and delays. RAs spoke about their working conditions, their frustrations, and why we are owed an RA Contract now. We posted our names on the windows and doors of the building with our demands to ensure the Administration cannot hide from us and their responsibilities any longer. We demand that SFU Administration:
- Includes all RAs in the union as it agreed in November 2019
- Provides RAs with basic employment protections
- Provides RAs with Health and Dental benefits, including MSP
- And respect RAs and bargains now!
Half-day bargaining sessions are scheduled for October 6, 7, 13, and 14. If SFU Administration doesn’t show up and meet our demands, our members are prepared to continue to escalate.
RAs at SFU have already waited too long for our basic rights, and we will not tolerate any more delays, cancellations, or wasted bargaining sessions from SFU Administration. It is time for SFU to live up to its legally binding agreement and to bargain a fair RA Contract now.