Many of our members may have received confusing and contradictory emails from SFU regarding MSP premiums and group enrollment. SFU Admin still has a very clear obligation under our Collective Agreement to: 1) maintain a group MSP plan into which TAs, TMs and Sessional Instructors can enroll, 2) pay any required premiums for MSP. SFU Admin is deliberately misleading our members with these communications and trying to get out of their obligations.
SFU Administration is violating our Collective Agreement and we need to fight back. We cannot stand by as the rights and livelihoods of our most precarious members are trampled on. Together we can reclaim the right we already have: SFU’s full payment of our MSP costs, including reimbursement for all costs incurred because of their reckless violation.
Why are people being charged for MSP?
SFU Administration is refusing to honour the collective agreement with TSSU. They are no longer paying our membership’s required premiums for MSP.
Did something change with MSP?
Yes, as of January 1, 2020, required monthly premiums for MSP have been increased to $75 / month for those here on study permit and $0 per month for all others. This means our international student members are being charged a lot of money for healthcare, while everyone else pays nothing. The obligation for SFU to pay the required premiums still applies, and has not changed.
What does our Collective Agreement say?
- SFU must maintain a group MSP plan:
“The University will maintain the Medical Services (MSP) […] for all eligible employees and dependents during the period of their employment, upon their written application” (Article XXV A.1, page 48)
This means SFU has responsibility to inform people of the plan, help with documentation.
- SFU must pay the premium costs:
“The University will pay the required premiums for MSP” (Article XXV A.2, page 48)
At this time SFU is keeping promise 1), but breaking promise 2).
Why is SFU Administration doing this?
SFU Administration wants to cut costs by offloading them onto us, the workers. They can spend the savings stolen from our membership to buy expensive perks and give pay raises for those at the top. SFU Administration will claim they have a legal case against us, but the language above is absolutely clear: SFU must and will pay our membership’s MSP premiums.
Who is affected?
TSSU members here on study permits and their dependents who are here on study permits have been charged premiums for MSP called the “Health Coverage Fee.” The costs are exceptionally high for those international students here with families, some of whom are being charged $450 / month!
What is the cost to our members?
Hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
Many of our affected members work more than full-time hours doing teaching and research labour for SFU, yet take home about $1000 per month. Those with families have begun receiving bills for as much as $450 per month, devastating their finances, throwing them into further poverty and leaving them at risk of homelessness.
What are we doing to stop this?
We have a two-prong approach:
- Organizing to put pressure on SFU Admin to carry out their legal obligations to our membership
- Using our grievance procedure where the legal issue can eventually be resolved through arbitration
We have been pursuing both of these routes since September 2019 until we get our members’ bills paid in full. See tssu.ca/msp for how you can join the fight.
I’m furious at SFU Administration for doing this. How can I act on this immediately?
Get organized! Come by our office, or contact us at email@example.com with the subject line: “Get organized” to join our team. You can also help collect signed campaign postcards that demand SFU Admin pay the bills as per our Collective Agreement. We also have a template letter for faculty members to send to SFU Admin, and an open letter anyone can sign. They’re all online at: tssu.ca/msp.
What’s the background on this “Health Coverage Fee”?
The BC Government announced it would eliminate MSP fees for BC residents, effective January 1, 2020. In August 2019, they announced that international students would still have to pay for MSP, and it would be branded as the “Health Coverage fee” and billed individually to students.
This portion of the premium for MSP was phased in:
- $37.50 per month starting Sept. 1, 2019
- $75.00 per month starting Jan. 1, 2020
The Government told us that the fee is just one part of a total premium for MSP, this is confirmed by the written regulation. The government also published a FAQ. TSSU has a history of fighting for free public health care for all residents of BC, including international students.
- In the 1980’s TSSU members fought to be included in public health care and won in court. Now all BC residents, including international students are covered.
- In the 1990’s we fought to have SFU pay the costs for MSP coverage, which is now 100% paid for Teaching Assistants, Tutor Markers, Sessional Instructors, etc.
- In the 2010’s, SFU brought in Guard.me, charging high fees for lesser service and TSSU fought and won $120,000+ back for TSSU members, and a 30% cut in the price for everyone.
Can I still sign up for the group plan if I’m not here on a study permit?
Yes, and we encourage you to do so. Download the form at tssu.ca/benefits and submit it firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m not working as a TA/TM/SI this semester, does SFU Admin have to pay my MSP costs?
For other job categories we have to bargain the same rights to access benefits, so for RAs, Graduate Writing Facilitators, etc, SFU is not responsible for paying required premiums. We need to win that right through bargaining.
If I delay paying my bill, will I be able to access health-care services?
Yes. Payment of premiums is a completely separate issue from access to coverage. SFU has confirmed your coverage is maintained. That means visits to clinics, emergency rooms, etc. will still be billed to your MSP. If you are notified otherwise, contact us immediately at email@example.com or 778-782-4735.
Can I just not pay the bill?
Yes, but it is ultimately up to you to decide what you are comfortable with doing with regards to payment, and for how long, as we at the TSSU fight for a just resolution to SFU’s violation. While they have not done so in the past, Revenue Services BC can choose to charge late fees. They can also deduct payments from your tax refund or contract a collection agency to pursue payment.. It does not hurt our legal case if you decide to pay the bill.
What if I get charged interest / late fees?
TSSU is pursuing full reimbursement from SFU Administrationfor all costs incurred by our membership from this violation as part of our grievance procedure. It is entirely the University’s responsibility to pay such costs for refusing to carry out their legal obligations to our membership. Please keep any bills and documentation and let us know of your situation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to pay your bill, you can do so online by going to: https://billing-and-payment.revenueservicesbc.gov.bc.ca/
- Create a login, you will need to verify your email
- Add an account of type “International Student Health Fee”
- Pay the bill using a credit card
Unlike the previous system, there are currently no e-bills online for this portion of the MSP premium. This is confusing, but you can still just pay the bill and amount directly.
Give me the short version of what I should be doing!
- Make sure you enroll in the group plan, get the MSP group application form at tssu.ca/benefits and email it to email@example.com
- Scan or take a photo of your bill and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org requesting payment of the bill as per the terms of the Collective Agreement. Please cc: email@example.com as well.
- Upload a copy of your bill below and we will send copies of the bills to SFU demanding they pay them. Your name will remain on the bill, but we will redact all other personal information.
Ways the entire community, including faculty and staff, can help:
- Come by our office, or find one of our campaigners to sign a postcard demanding SFU Admin pay the bills as promised.
- If you’re a faculty member talk to other faculty in your department and write a letter to SFU Admin, you can use our template for ideas.
- Sign the grassroots petition opposing the health coverage fee and demanding action from SFU President Petter and VP Finance and Administration Martin Porchurko. View and sign the letter.
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more involved in the other aspects of the campaign.