VICTORIA— The BC government’s 2020 Budget has students and educators celebrating the introduction of an up-front, needs-based student grant program. The BC Access Grant is the first of its kind in BC in nearly two decades, and will help reduce student loan debt for thousands of British Columbians every year.
“The faculty and staff who work at BC colleges, institutes and universities see the financial stress students are under. Educators want students to succeed and this up-front grant will make a big difference for the low and middle income learners who need help,” said Terri Van Steinburg, President of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC. “An affordable, accessible, post-secondary system benefits everyone in our province. Today’s announcement adds to measures like tuition-free adult basic education and tuition waivers for former youth in care which have truly changed students’ lives. That’s the power of post-secondary education, and investments in expanding those opportunities.”
The BC Access Grant will be $41 million annually, which is projected to assist 40,000 students each year; it will be funded through a combination of reinvestments of existing assistance measures and new investment of $24 million over three years. Complementing the Canada Access Grant, the BC Access Grant will ensure eligible students receive as much as $4,000 in non-repayable financial aid in each year of their studies.
Student debt in BC has risen 88% since 1999, and the average student loan balance upon graduation is over $30,000. A recent study showed that student debt holds young people back not only professionally, but also in other important ways: because of rising debt, recent graduates in Canada are delaying major life events like getting married, buying a home, or starting a family.
“With tuition fees at an all-time high, student debt in BC continues to grow as students and their families struggle to afford the education they need to enter the workforce,” said Klassen. “The BC Access Grant will help students access not only four-year programs, but certificate and diploma programs that are key for many aspects of the workforce.”
Through the BCFS, students have long sought student debt relief, focusing on the elimination of interest on student loans and the creation of needs-based grants. In its 2019 Budget, the BC government eliminated interest charged on the BC portion of student loans. The change announced today will further reduce financial barriers to education, helping more people access the training they need to get ahead.
The BC Federation of Students represents over 170,000 students at 15 universities, colleges, and institutes in every region of BC. The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators represents 10,000 educators in colleges, institutes and teaching universities in BC.
For more information, please contact:
Tanysha Klassen, Chairperson (604) 733-1880
Jenelle Davies, Spokesperson (604) 733-1880
Nicole Seguin, Communications Officer (604) 831-6684
In 2004 the then-BC Liberal government eliminated the BC Student Grant Program, effectively removing non-repayable financial assistance for BC students. Without this, student loans have become the primary — if not the only — assistance for those who cannot afford to pay up-front for their education.
Student Debt Keeps Graduates from Fully Contributing to the Economy
Student debt is affecting recent graduates in major ways. A 2018 RBC report shows the depth this impact is having on graduates’ contribution to the economy in terms of delaying major life choices. Amongst recent university graduates, over 50% report not saving enough for emergencies, 45% are delaying a home purchase, 25% delay having children and 20% report delaying marriage. These changes mean that student debt is shrinking the economy. The government’s recent announcement to eliminate interest on student loans is a great first step which will help grow the economy by putting money back in the pockets of students as they join the work force, which can then be spent on goods and services. But the thought of lingering student debt after graduation still means that new graduates withdraw from the economy instead of contributing to it.
Recent public opinion polling demonstrates that 68% of British Columbians support the creation of an up-front needs-based grant program.
The BCFS campaign Squash the Squeeze, launched in 2014, highlighted the need for drastic change to the post-secondary education funding and financial aid systems. Through the campaign, more than 20,000 postcards were sent to the then-BC Liberal government demanding the implementation of an up-front needs based grants program. At the same time, students across the province met with their MLAs and presented to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services year after year making the same arguments.
The campaign was relaunched in 2018 as Grants Not Loans, with the same goal of the implementation of an up-front needs-based grants program. Information about the campaign can be found at wearebcstudents.ca/grantsnotloans.
The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators is committed to the implementation of the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the recognition of the inherent rights stated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
FPSE calls on all parties to engage in meaningful dialogue to implement the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the recognition of the inherent rights stated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. FPSE calls on all parties to engage in meaningful dialogue regarding Wet’suwet’en traditional unceded territory and reach a negotiated settlement.
The federation supports the right to expression and the right to protest as bedrock principles of our democracy and calls for an end to the RCMP tactics that have led to arrests and ongoing confrontation.
This year, January not only brings the fresh start of a new calendar year, but also the beginning of a new decade. It’s the perfect time to look ahead at what this year holds and think big about the changes we want to see by 2030. I want to build on all the work we’ve done this past year – if you missed it, you can read my year in review here.
This year, our federation is focusing on three things:
- Fighting for fairness in our current round of bargaining;
- Celebrating our 50th anniversary and everything we’ve accomplished since we started in 1970; and
- Advocating for improvements in our sector, such as the need for public funding to make sure post-secondary education is affordable, comprehensive, and sustainable.
Our priority as a federation of unions, has always been working with our locals on a strong and united approach to bargaining – this year is no different. So much work has been done at the table to push forward on the issue of fairness for contract faculty and we can’t, and won’t, stop now. For more information on bargaining, contact your bargaining team.
In addition to bargaining, we've been working with FPSE activists past and present to conduct interviews and find photos and stories from the last 50 years. Through this process, I’ve seen that everything we do, be it bargaining or campaigning, is only possible because of the work of the union members who came before us. I am so grateful to those in our movement who gave their time, energy, and expertise to making life better for those of us who have come after them. We’ll be sharing this information on our website, through our FPSE email list, and on our Facebook and Twitter accounts – be sure to subscribe, like and follow us for future developments.
Finally, whether you’re looking at our history or our present, it’s clear that our federation is always focused on making a better future for post-secondary workers, and we’re not afraid to think big. Faculty, staff, and learners deserve nothing less than an affordable post-secondary education system that treats workers fairly, and provides opportunity for all students, regardless of their financial means. Big ideas take time to become reality, but they are absolutely worth fighting for.
Terri Van Steinburg
2019 is drawing to a close, and it’s been a big year for our federation.
We’ve been talking about how contract faculty are paid less than their colleagues, and why we need to fix this. We have been in bargaining since our contracts expired on March 31st. And of course, we’ve continued to push for the fair treatment of faculty and staff in their day to day work.
Through our federation’s committees, we are making pensions more secure, workplaces safer, and ensuring our coworkers are treated with respect. Since anti-union legislation was repealed last fall, educators who are active in their union are again able to sit on the boards of our colleges, institutes and universities.
We‘ve marched with and donated funds to our allies in labour, who have had to strike in order to get a fair contract with their employer. This is our commitment as part of the broader labor movement: to unite in solidarity when times are tough in order to create a better future, together.
Here are some more highlights from the past year:
2019 FPSE Media Coverage Highlights
- Post-secondary faculty are looking for pay equity
- Post-secondary contract teachers are paid unfairly — and that's affecting students, too, federation says
- Contract faculty pay practices unfair: Fair Employment Week brings attention to the issue of underpaid contract work on campuses
- Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC elects new President
- B.C. post-secondary educators fight to fix 'structural' problem of precarious contract work
- High numbers of international students, low numbers of support and staff, says expert
- Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of B.C. raises an alarm about precarious profs
- December 6, 2019: National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women
- Fair Employment Week 2019
- Statement on September 27 Climate Strike
- Labour Day: A Call for Workers
- Post-secondary Educators Fight for Fairness
On a personal note, it’s been an honour to serve as president of our federation since being elected in May. I couldn’t ask for a more dedicated group of activists than the FPSE Executive and Presidents’ Council. They work hard to improve our post-secondary sector and make our workplace better for faculty and staff right across the province.
The more we work together on the important issues facing us, the stronger we become, and the better our workplaces will be. On behalf of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC, I wish you the happiest of holidays and a joyous New Year.
Terri Van Steinburg
December 6th will mark 30 years since the brutal murders of 14 women at École Polytechnique. The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women was created to remember those female students, and to take action to prevent violence against women in the future. Sadly, there is still work left to do to achieve this long sought-after goal.
For faculty and staff in BC’s post-secondary institutions, the remembrance of this day hits very close to home. It would be easy to give in to fear about how this might have happened in any post-secondary classroom. Instead, we work to stop gender-based violence.
Unions are focused on ending gender-based violence at work and supporting people who experience it. Earlier this year the Employment Standards Act was updated by Premier Horgan and his government to provide protected leave for survivors of intimate partner violence. FPSE and locals are currently in bargaining – and this issue is on the table there as well.
FPSE’s action on this issue doesn’t end there. On December 6, members of FPSE’s Status of Women Committee will be holding events and sharing information about how to end gender-based violence with their coworkers, students, and the public. I am grateful to each of them for giving their time and expertise towards achieving complete equity.
We all have a part in achieving this goal. Here are some resources and suggestions for what you can do:
- Are you faculty or staff at one of FPSE’s member locals? Contact your SWC representative to see how you can help bring gender-based violence to an end.
- Tell the newly elected government to ratify international labour convention C-190, the first-ever global treaty on violence and harassment in the world of work. Learn more and write to the PM now through the Canadian Labour Congress.
- Take part in one of the actions on December 6 proposed by the Government of Canada.
- Support the 16 Days of Action against gender-based violence campaign by reading and following the 16 Days Campaign Advocacy Guide.
The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women will only be as effective as our participation in it. Remember, first we mourn, then we act! No matter your gender identity, please take action to end gender-based violence. By working together, we can prevent the events of December 6, 1989 from happening again.
Terri Van Steinburg
Thousands of post-secondary students will be writing mid-term exams this month, but it’s not only the students who need to evaluate what they are learning. Over three thousand contract faculty in BC, including educators just starting out in their careers, are learning that they are precarious labour who are paid less for doing the same work. The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators is taking part in the international campaign, “Fair Employment Week”, that draws attention to this issue and calls for change.
Unfortunately, this issue is not a new one. I was originally hired as contract faculty, on a short-term contract without benefits, and was paid less than other faculty who worked alongside me. Then in 1998, post-secondary unions came together and successfully negotiated language to ensure employers converted contract faculty to secure employees when they reached a minimum threshold. Although many employers tried to avoid their obligation to make contract faculty secure employees, our unions stuck together and successfully achieved job security for many contract faculty.
Having taken on this half of the problem – short term contracts – our federation is taking on the other half: paying contract faculty fairly.
Province-wide, approximately 30% of the college, institute and teaching university members represented by FPSE are contract faculty. That’s over 3000 people in BC in our federation alone receiving half the pay for doing the same work. Some contract faculty are paid 80 per cent less.
Lower rates of pay for contract faculty negatively impact both students and educators. The need to piece together work reduces availability to students. Additional financial hardship is imposed on racialized contract faculty who already experience racism in our society. Workers with low income have less financial ability to spend and participate in the local economy. There is an abundance of research that proves that when low income earners see their income increase, they increase their spending – much of which stays in the local community.
We all suffer from contract faculty being paid less – which means everyone benefits from contract faculty being paid fairly. Students have increased access to their educators. A barrier to the recruitment and retention of racialized educators is removed. Local economies benefit from workers being paid more.
The inherent lack of fairness in paying some people less for doing the same job is the same no matter the sector. We need to fight back against this culture of exploitation. Our contract expired earlier this year, and this issue will continue to be part of our ongoing bargaining discussions. We’ve always fought for educators to be treated fairly. We don’t intend to stop now.
No matter where you live in BC, I encourage you to take part in Fair Employment Week by showing your support online. If you haven’t already, sign our Fairness for Faculty petition here. If you have, please share our Fair Employment Week commentary on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #makeitfair.
Together we can make sure everyone who does the same work receives the same pay.
Terri Van Steinburg
For immediate release
Friday October 4, 2019
VANCOUVER - Ten municipalities across BC are supporting fairness for contract faculty through motions, proclamations, and public letters of support in the leadup to Fair Employment Week, an international campaign that calls attention to the working conditions experienced by contract faculty at post-secondary institutions.
“This show of support from municipalities demonstrates the broad support for treating contract faculty fairly, not as underpaid disposable labour,” said FPSE President Terri Van Steinburg. “We have contract faculty who have to access income assistance because their pay is so low. We have contract faculty who earn half or less than their colleagues for doing the same work. This has to change. Paying people less for doing the same work is not the right way to build our post-secondary system, or our province.”
Fair Employment Week runs from October 7-11, 2019 and is being recognized across Canada through events on campuses and in communities. The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators will be in Victoria October 9-10 to highlight the issues being faced by contract faculty.
In BC, most institutions pay contract faculty less than regular faculty for doing the same work. However, paying contract faculty fairly can be done. At Vancouver Community College and Langara College doing the same work results in the same pay.
“Paying people fairly is not only a social justice issue, it’s also economic one. Moving to a same work/same pay model at all post-secondary institutions will improve service for students and working conditions for contract faculty, a disproportionate number of whom are women and racialized educators,” continued Van Steinburg. “The time for change is now.”
Full list of municipalities:
City of Surrey
City of Victoria
City of Burnaby
City of New Westminster
City of Port Coquitlam
City of Duncan
City of Colwood
City of Gibsons
City of Langford
Resort Municipality of Whistler
The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators represents 10,000 educators in colleges, institutes and teaching universities in BC.
Nicole Seguin, Communications Officer
Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC
604-873-8988 | 604-831-6684
Statement from FPSE President Terri Van Steinburg on the Climate Strike (Friday, September 27, 2019)
"Today’s climate strike is bringing much-needed attention to the climate emergency. The young people leading this action in our province and around the world are both an inspiration and a reminder of what is possible when we join together. Just as the science of climate change is undeniable, so too is the power of people united in calling for change."
"Our members – educators at colleges, institutes, and teaching universities – see how students are driving change every day and will be supporting their efforts today and into the future."
Learn more about the Climate Strike:
This year marks the 125th anniversary of Labour Day as an official holiday. Back in 1894, the standard workday was 12 hours, and the standard workweek 6 days. It took years of fighting, but eventually a limited workday and 5-day workweek was achieved. But workers didn’t stop there: over the decades that followed, child labour was prohibited, safety standards were implemented, and paid parental leave was created.
These advances continue to change lives today – with one caveat. For contract workers, it’s too early to celebrate. The benefits many of us enjoy haven’t yet been achieved for these workers. Now is the time to raise what we expect, and what we’ll accept, from our employers.
Contract work is nothing new, but the labour market has undergone significant change in relatively recent history. Since the 1960s, union density has declined. Following that trend, inequality increased as wages failed to keep pace with cost of living increases. The minimum wage was not calibrated to provide a living wage, leaving many to work more than one job to earn enough to support one family. We also must recognize that workers of colour and workers with disabilities had (and continue to have) additional hardships in the workplace as they contend with these issues, in addition to systemic racism and bias.
The gig economy has exacerbated these issues: in the name of “disruption” workers are being pitted against each other to compete for doing the same work for a lower wage. It’s a race to the bottom, and we’re all losing.
Research shows that contract work can lead to lower wages for non-contract workers as well. It’s a corrosive force that has the potential to undermine past improvements achieved by workers. And no sector is immune.
This includes our post-secondary institutions. While contract faculty positions are not new, college, institute, and university administrations have stretched the justification for short-term, underpaid contract labour beyond recognition. For decades, faculty and staff unions have tried to solve this problem at the bargaining table, to no avail. That is, until 1998 when we refused to sign a contract until a pathway to long-term work was established. This was a huge milestone that made a life-changing difference in pay and stability for thousands of education workers.
However, it didn’t take long for employers to work around this language. We began to notice that contract faculty would not be re-hired just before they were given job security as a regular employee. Employers held out the promise of long-term work, all the while keeping contract faculty chasing a job that remained just out of reach.
Contract work in our institutions continues to blatantly exploit workers. Let’s leave aside the issue of the short-term contracts and the stress that uncertainty creates. We can find no convincing rationale that explains why an educator, who is skilled enough to be hired year after year, should continue to be paid less than their colleagues. When you’re doing the same work, you should receive the same pay. It’s pretty straight forward!
On Labour Day, you’ll often hear the J.S. Woodsworth quote that “what we desire for ourselves, we wish for all”. You’ll also hear enthusiastic applause for what we’ve gained. A decent wage, the weekend, and workplace safety, to name a few, have become minimum expectations for many of us. It’s clear that what we desire are jobs that are fair and give us the ability to enjoy the other aspects of our lives. Contract work doesn’t just deprive others of these rights, it threatens to negate the gains entirely.
So, where do we go from here? The first step is to remember that every gain won happened because workers fought for it. It’s never been easy, but it’s always been worthwhile.
The second step is to talk others and find out how contract work is affecting them. Are they paid fairly? Do they have benefits? And do they have a path to long term work? In post-secondary, the overwhelming answer is no.
Which brings us to the third step: continuing the fight for better working conditions. When we work together we have incredible power to create change that will last for these workers. We cannot accept the status quo that uses contract faculty as disposable labour.
This Labour Day, I urge you to support the fight for fairness for contract faculty and other contract workers. Let’s show employers how we expect them to treat all workers. Not just for ourselves, but for all.