SFU Announces Decision to Become a Living Wage Employer – A First for a Canadian Public University – SFU News
Simon Fraser University will begin taking steps to become a living wage employer, furthering its commitment to improving equity and inclusion for active members of the SFU community.
The process of obtaining certification, for Living Wage for BC Familieswas recently approved by the SFU Board of Governors and will follow a phased approach as contracts are renewed over the next three years.
“SFU is committed to its employees, regardless of their role or employment relationship. We recognize the need to improve equity and ensure fair compensation for all members of our community,” said SFU Board Chair Angie Lamarsh.
A living wage takes into account total employee wages and benefits and is a calculation of what a family of four needs to earn to meet their current basic expenses. By working through the certification process, the university will advance its work to close identified gaps and create greater economic equity and social inclusion for all employees, including contract service workers.
“One of SFU’s top priorities is to ensure that everyone feels a sense of belonging, inclusion, equity 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 to ensure that benefits and salaries reflect the true cost of living in our community,” said Joy Johnson, President of SFU.
As part of the work to align with the living wage criteria, a working group will be created to support the certification process as well as to determine future expectations with contracted service providers, which will include clauses for future contracts and renegotiated life-related salary 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 decision is the right thing to do for our SFU community,” said Yabome Gilpin-Jackson, Vice President, People, Equity and Inclusion at SFU. “Ensuring a living wage, as well as more equitable and accessible on-campus benefits where appropriate, aligns with our ongoing commitment to equity and inclusion within the University community.”
As an educational institution, SFU recognizes that access to education is essential to breaking cycles of generational and economic inequality. SFU offers tuition waivers or tuition credits for eligible SFU employees and their families who meet academic requirements, and the university will seek to introduce a program that supports access to educational opportunities for workers contractors and their families, as well as extending campus benefits to them.
The decision follows months of conversations with university management, employee groups and service providers. The importance of becoming a living wage employer was also clearly heard during the SFU: What’s next? commitment process.
Along with the move to a living wage, which will include contract service workers, the university will continue its longstanding model of outsourcing catering and cleaning services. As a community-based research university, SFU’s expertise lies in academia and research. Where the university lacks expertise, SFU has been a progressive and innovative leader working with contracted vendors, local contractors, and working with social infrastructure to make a positive impact.
Last year, the university committed to conduct an external review to analyze the risks and benefits of in-house cleaning and restoration options versus outsourced contracts for the university. The report emphasizes that decisions about insourcing and outsourcing models are based on the unique circumstances of each post-secondary institution (eg, existing capacity, economic factors) rather than a general trend. Given that 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 catering and cleaning services have been successfully outsourced since the university’s inception.
SFU is the first public university in Canada to announce its intention to seek official 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 involvement. SFU is a founding partner of the Canadian Center for Diversity and Inclusion and a regional partner of Pride at Work Canada.