SFU begins process to become Living Wage Employer

July 19, 2022

I am pleased to share that at the last Board meeting, the SFU Board of Governors approved a motion that will see SFU pursue certification to become a Living Wage Employer through Living Wage for Families BC

This is an exciting step for the university. It means we can ensure fair and equitable compensation for all employees at the university, as well as contracted service workers. It also means that we can walk the talk as we work toward greater economic equity and social inclusion. 

This move is in recognition that we have more work to do to create a sense of connection and community for all workers, including contract workers who deliver services on our campuses. 

In addition to seeking living wage certification, we will explore the creation of a program that supports educational opportunities for contract workers, provide access to additional campus benefits where applicable and find other ways to enhance inclusion for contract workers as members of our campus community. 

This work comes after months of conversations with university leadership, employee groups and service providers. We also heard clearly during the SFU: What’s Next? engagement process that becoming a Living Wage Employer was important to our community. 

Becoming a living wage employer will not happen overnight. There are many considerations, including existing contracts and collective agreements, and we will follow a phased approach as contracts are renewed over the next three years. 

A working group will be established to support the certification process as well as to determine future expectations with contract service providers, which will include clauses for future and re-negotiated contracts related to living wage requirements. 

As a community-engaged research university, SFU’s expertise is in academics and research. Where the university does not have expertise, SFU has been a progressive and innovative leader working with working with contracted providers, local entrepreneurs and our social infrastructure to make a positive impact. Last year the university committed to an external review to analyze the risks and benefits for in-house vs. contract sourced cleaning and food service options for the university. The report outlined that decisions around insourcing and outsourcing models are based on each post-secondary institution’s unique circumstances (e.g., existing capabilities, economic factors) rather than reflecting a general trend.  As SFU has many gaps in the capabilities and expertise required to provide these services in-house, it is clear to management and the Board that these services should remain outsourced. SFU’s food service and cleaning services have been successfully outsourced since the university was created. 

In addition to tangibly improving the lives of workers in our community, SFU hopes to become the first public post-secondary institution in Canada to be certified as a Living Wage Employer. By taking these steps, we hope we can chart a course for others to follow suit. 

I recognize that you may have many more questions. As a large institution with many different employee groups and stakeholders, this change will take time, but this is an exciting step in our journey to improve inclusion and equity at SFU. 


Joy Johnson
Pronouns: she, her, hers
President and Vice-Chancellor
Simon Fraser University