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Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

SFU announces move to become living wage employer - a first for a Canadian public university

July 19, 2022

Simon Fraser University will begin taking steps to become a Living Wage Employer, furthering its commitment to improve equity and inclusion for working members of the SFU community. 

The move to seek certification, through Living Wage for Families BC, was recently approved by SFU’s Board of Governors and will follow a phased approach as contracts are renewed over the next three years. 

“SFU is committed to its people, regardless of role or employment relationship. We recognize the need to enhance equity and ensure fair compensation for all members of our community,” says SFU board chair Angie Lamarsh.

A living wage takes into account employees’ total wages and benefits and is a calculation of what a family of four needs to earn to meet its current basic expenses. In working through the certification process, the university will advance its work to address identified gaps and create greater economic equity and social inclusion for all employees, including contracted service workers. 

“A key priority for SFU is to ensure that everyone feels a sense of belonging, inclusion, fairness, and mutual respect on our campuses. We recognize that there are gaps and inequities among some of the workers at our university and it is important that we ensure that benefits and wages reflect the true costs of living in our community,” says SFU President Joy Johnson. 

As part of the work to align with the Living Wage criteria, 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. While most SFU employees earn a living wage, any adjustments that may be identified will be addressed through collective bargaining or through new/renewed employment agreements. 
 
“This move is the right thing to do for our SFU community,” says Yabome Gilpin-Jackson, SFU’s Vice-President, People, Equity & Inclusion. “Ensuring a Living Wage, along with more equitable and accessible campus benefits where applicable, aligns with our ongoing commitment to equity and inclusion across the university community.”

As an educational institution, SFU recognizes that access to education is core to breaking cycles of generational and economic inequity. SFU offers a tuition waiver or tuition credits for eligible SFU employees and their families who meet university requirements, and the university will seek to introduce a program that supports access to educational opportunities for contracted workers and their families, as well as to extend campus benefits to them.

The move follows months of conversations with university leadership, employee groups and service providers. The importance of becoming a Living Wage Employer was also clearly heard during the SFU: What’s Next? engagement process.
 
Along with the move to a living wage, which will include contracted service workers, the university will continue its longstanding model of outsourcing food and cleaning services. 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 contracted providers, local entrepreneurs, and working with 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.  
 
SFU is the first public university in Canada to announce its intent to seek formal living wage certification. Once certified, SFU will join a growing list of Lower Mainland municipalities and organizations that have become Living Wage Employers. 

The university has been recognized nationally and provincially as a top employer and top family-friendly employer for creating a workplace that values a healthy work-life balance, professional growth and development, and community engagement. SFU is a founding partner of the Canadian Centre for Diversity & Inclusion and a regional partner with Pride at Work Canada. 

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