Research Assistants

Transitioning Research Assistants to SFU Employees

The university has undertaken to transition Research Assistants to employees to recognize the valuable contributions our research personnel make and deepen our ability to be innovative and competitive. Once transitioned, this group will be supported by the rights and benefits associated with employee status, and will experience greater equity, diversity and inclusion in research opportunities.

The development of hiring and onboarding processes and employment practices will create consistency and provide researchers with the support and expertise necessary to manage complex employment relationships and comply with BC and Federal laws.

Understanding the Work Research Assistants Do

The title “Research Assistant” is currently used for a variety of individuals, doing a variety of work.  To better understand who is eligible for employee status and to facilitate a consistent onboarding process in the future, the project team reviewed a snapshot of individuals with that title across the Departments against some role profiles and consulted with Principal Investigators.

An interesting finding was that many working under scholarship hold the title Research Assistant. As only those individuals receiving employment income are eligible for employment status, this group will not be transitioned as part of this phase. 

The Transition Process - What's Happening

Those categorized as eligible to be SFU employees will need to be transitioned to employment status, which requires the development of an interim intake process and the signing of employment contracts. This process is currently underway; many eligible Research Assistants have received and signed contracts for the fall semester, others are in the queue. In the meantime:

  • If you are a Research Assistant and you are invited to become an SFU employee, your current terms and conditions will be captured in your employment contract as they exist today.
  • If you are a grant holder and any of your Research Assistants are invited to become employees, you will be asked to help create their Offers of Employment based on current contract terms.
  • If you are a Research Assistant and you don't hear from the project team about transitioning, everything continues as usual.

Recognizing Employees’ Right to Unionize

Only SFU employees are eligible for union membership. Once research personnel have signed an Offer of Employment with SFU, they will have the opportunity to become members of a union.

Some Research Assistants may not meet the criteria to be recognized as eligible for employment status, and as such, they may not be eligible for TSSU membership.

A Few Important Things to Know

  • Research Assistants and their work will not be affected during this period, although if they are identified as eligible to be an SFU employee they will be invited to sign an employment contract with the university.
  • SFU and TSSU signed a Memorandum of Agreement wherein SFU recognizes employees’ right to unionize.
  • Once those categorized as RAs are signed on as employees, they are eligible for TSSU membership. RAs may be contacted by TSSU in the meantime, as the union would like to begin preparing for collective bargaining on behalf of the RAs who do become employees. RAs may work with TSSU in advance of being confirmed as eligible and/or signing employment letters.
  • The possibility exists that not all current RAs will be categorized as RAs in the future, and as such, they may not be eligible for employment status or TSSU membership.
  • Future employment terms and conditions (including salaries and benefits) for eligible SFU employees, will be negotiated as part of the Collective Agreement bargaining process.
  • There will be no impact to grant funding during the project, and once a Collective Agreement has been signed, the project team will work with units to develop solutions that minimize impacts.


Email the project team at: