Work Environment

Working for SFU
Rights in the TSSU Collective Agreement
International Students
Employment Standards On & Off Campus

Policies and Legislation You Can Turn To:

SFU: SFU-TSSU Collective Agreement (you may also have an institutional position that would fall under a different Collective Agreement, such as CUPE 3338 – be informed about where your rights lie), Graduate Student Admissions HandbookGP-19 Employment Equity

Legislation: BC Employment Standards Act, Human Rights CodeLabour Relations Code

Students hold many employed positions within the institution, often at the same time. This creates a web of standards, rights, and expectations held within Collective Agreements, contracts, and provincial legislation that can be difficult to navigate. If you have any concerns about your rights as a worker, seeking support through the TSSU is advisable. As members of the TSSU, workers have the right to full participation in any legal action and activities  of the union, which is protected by the CA and the Labour Relations Code.

If you are a Teaching Assistant (TA), Tutor Marker (TM), Research Assistant (RA), Sessional Instructor, Graduate Facilitator in the Student Learning Commons, or an English Language and Culture Instructor, or an Interpretation and Translation Program Instructor you are protected by the SFU-Teaching Support Staff Union Collective Agreement(CA). This legally binding agreement provides you with a wide range of rights and supports in enacting them. If you require assistance in navigating your rights within the CA you can contact the TSSU at or 778-782-4735.

TSSU is a labour union, not a student union. Your rights through TSSU apply to you as a worker at SFU. Members of TSSU include many non-grad students and students who are registered on leave.

Some of your rights under the SFU-TSSU CA include:

  • The right to time off when you are sick, around thesis defense and comprehensive exams, as well as many other types of leave
  • Access to paid medical coverage
    • International students should apply for the provincial Medical Services Plan (MSP) and opt out of as soon as possible. is a private health care service that SFU automatically enrolls you in that typically costs more than MSP. Individuals are automatically re-enrolled if they do not opt out, even if they have MSP coverage. See more information here.
  • The right to file a formal complaint against your employer (a grievance) with no fear of retaliation when you feel your rights as a worker have been violated.
    • Right to union representation to resolve any issues you have as a worker 
    • You have the responsibility to bring any issues forward as soon as possible. The CA outlines a timeline in which grievances must be filed, usually 45 days. 
    • Do not hesitate to contact the Union, even if you are unsure that a violation of your rights has occurred and just want to ask questions. Anything you say to the Union is confidential. Contacting the union does not file a formal complaint or grievance. TSSU will not do anything on your behalf without your explicit permission.
  • Intellectual property rights over any course materials (excluding RAs at this time)
  • Both the CA (article IX) and university policy GP-19 protect workers from discrimination and harassment in the hiring process and working environment. 
  • A priority right to TA and TM in your own department, as well as rights to work in others even when you are on leave (excluding international students on leave).
  • The right to paid orientation and professional development
  • Regular reviews of workload and pay for any hours worked beyond those contracted

Please note that each job category has different rights so not all of the above apply to every worker. For a more defined list of rights please refer to the CA, the TSSU “Know Your Rights” guide, or contact the TSSU.

As a TA or TM what counts as work?: checking emails, tutorial prep, any readings required to engage students in subject matter, professional development or training, attending lectures and tutorials, office hours, meetings or consultation with your faculty supervisor, marking.

As a TA or TM you shouldn’t be asked to: clean a professor’s office, perform personal duties or favours, run errands, pay for something that will be reimbursed later, carry out academic dishonesty procedures, or assign final grades

If you are a sessional/GF/ELC-ITP instructor and have questions about this, consult the CA or contact the TSSU.


International students may seek additional work under the following conditions: 

  • Students can work on campus without a work permit provided they have a valid study permit and are enrolled as a full-time student.
  • Students can work off campus without a work permit for a maximum of 20 hours per week provided they have a valid study permit, are enrolled as a full-time student and in a program of 6 months or more leading to a degree, diploma or certificate.
  • After graduation international students can work in Canada for 3 years if you have applied for a post-graduate work permit within 180 days of completing your degree.

The BC Employment Standards Act governs all university and off campus workers. The Act ensure the right to:

  • Health and safety in the workplace: You cannot sign away your right to a safe work environment – this is a violation of the law
  • Fair and timely pay: You must be paid every two weeks through official university channels and have access to information to determine how you are being paid 

A work environment free from harassment and discriminationWorksafeBC offers many resources to support those navigating what is often an overlooked and under-reported aspect of workplaces.