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.
There is even more to celebrate at Pride celebrations this year as we mark the 50th anniversary of two important events in North America’s LGBTQ/2S+ history. Bill C-150, Canada’s first piece of legislation decriminalizing homosexuality was passed, and the Stonewall Riots took place in New York – which directly led to the formation of the Gay Liberation Front. Both these events marked turning points in our history, where people joined together to overcome discrimination through legislative and social change. In the 50 years since these events, discrimination and inequality sadly still exist, but significant change has happened due to vocal and persistent human and civil rights advocacy.
In the past year, the BC government started funding gender-affirming surgery and created a non-gendered “X” option for BC identification. Nationally, the “X” gender option is now provided for citizenship cards and passports, and Canada’s first study of LGBTQ2+ health was conducted and released by the Standing Committee on Health. These measures show that change is possible at all levels of government, and that advocating for people to be treated with respect and dignity is always worth fighting for.
As we look ahead to the future, it’s clear we need to take an intersectional approach to addressing inequality. As evidenced by the report on the health of LGBTQ/2S+ people in Canada, it is clear that those in the LGBTQ/2S+ community who are people of colour or people with disabilities face additional discrimination and barriers. This means that we don’t just need to create and update specific actions for LGBTQ/2S+ people, but to eliminate bias, discrimination, and poverty for all.
This is one of the reasons I’m so proud to be part of the labour movement. Being part of the fight for fair treatment of all workers doesn’t just give people a voice in their workplace, it’s part of the larger fight for social justice. I’m so honoured to work alongside all of you as we provide safe, inclusive spaces for our colleagues and students, and pave the way for a brighter future.
The fight to end discrimination and ensure equality for all continues. This is true solidarity, and there’s lots more to do. I hope you and your colleagues join pride parades and events to recognize all that has been achieved in LGBTQ/2S+ history and all that we can achieve together in the years ahead.
Terri Van Steinburg
Each year, the BC government holds public consultations that inform the next year’s budget through the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services. This year, the consultation happened in June – and for three weeks, the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators and our locals spoke out about paying contract faculty fairly.
From Courtenay to Kelowna to Surrey, the committee heard about the impact underpaying contract faculty is having on workers, students and our communities.
While the exact payment for contract faculty fluctuates across the province, the overall issue is the same: contract faculty are paid less than their colleagues for doing the same work – sometimes 80% less.
I spoke to the committee in Surrey to give a provincial overview of this issue and give our recommendation for Budget 2020. Here are the key points from our presentation:
- In BC, we have a provincial salary scale used across our system that ensures educators are paid fairly, without discrimination. Contract faculty are not paid on this scale.
- 1/3 of FPSE members are contract faculty – that’s 3000 educators in BC.
- Contract faculty need to be paid on a pro rata basis – simply put, proportionate to the provincial salary scale.
- Vancouver Community College and Langara College show that treating faculty fairly is possible. There, all faculty are paid on the provincial salary scale, regardless of the duration of their employment contract. This should be the standard for all institutions.
Our recommendation for Budget 2020 is that government fund a pro rata pay model so that contract faculty are paid on the provincial salary scale.
Our colleges, universities, and institutes are important pieces of our public infrastructure and they need the dedication and skill of faculty and staff. We need to make sure that the treatment of educators matches the excellent education that post-secondary workers provide. Ensuring that public funds go towards paying people fairly is the kind of investment that makes life better for every person in our province.
You can help – join the Fight for Fairness today! #makeitfair
Terri Van Steinburg
President Elect, FPSE
Terri Van Steinburg assumes role August 1, 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 15, 2019, Kelowna BC – The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC has elected Terri Van Steinburg as the federation’s new president-elect at an Annual General Meeting, held in Kelowna on May 15.
The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and private sector institutions, representing over 10,000 members at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.
Van Steinburg assumes her new position on August 1, 2019 when George A. Davison retires from the presidency, a role he held for four years. Van Steinburg has previously served as FPSE’s Secretary-Treasurer from 2015.
Sean Parkinson, of the University of the Fraser Valley Faculty and Staff Association (UFVFSA), has been elected to the role of Secretary-Treasurer. Frank Cosco (Vancouver Community College Faculty Association) and Leslie Molnar (College of the Rockies Faculty Association) were elected as first and second vice-president, respectively.
Van Steinburg pledges to continue advocating for equal pay for contract academic staff. Contract work in post-secondary education is a problem which leads to some educators earning 80 per cent less than their colleagues despite having equivalent qualifications.
“Educators provide what we need for the economy of today and tomorrow. Educators work hard every day—and they should be paid fairly. We have a provincial salary scale that sets out fair compensation across the sector – and now it must be applied equally to everyone who works in our sector,” says Van Steinburg.
“I wish George well in his future projects and thank him for the important and lasting contributions he has made to the field of post-secondary education,” adds Van Steinburg.
For 13 years, Van Steinburg served as president of the Kwantlen Faculty Association at Kwantlen Polytechnic University where she taught career development for women. She’s been active in the labour movement for three decades, having been a member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Industrial Wood and Allied Workers Union (now Steelworkers) prior to joining FPSE. She is also president of the National Union of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (NUCAUT) and a labour educator, instructing courses for the Canadian Labour Congress and the BC Federation of Labour.
The position of President of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators is elected every year at an Annual General Meeting of members.
Last year, 131 workers were killed on the job or died from work-related illnesses in B.C. That’s nearly three workers every week – and thousands more were injured at work. Losing a loved one due to unsafe work conditions is unacceptable. We mourn for each of the 131 workers we lost, and for the family, friends, and colleagues left behind.
April 28 is a day to remember these workers and renew our commitment to fight for healthier, safer workplaces, for employer accountability, and for full compensation for injured workers and survivors. We must challenge employers and governments every day to prevent workplace injury or death, and occupational illness.
In this spirit, FPSE has joined unions across the province in the BC Federation of Labour Workers Deserve Better campaign to call for improvements to our labour and employment laws. All workers deserve safety, dignity and respect at work – but our current laws fail to make that a reality:
- Children as young as 12 can work almost anywhere, even in heavy construction;
- Wage theft happens with no consequence for unscrupulous employers;
- Workers facing intimate, personal or relationship violence have zero protected or paid leave;
- Many vulnerable workers are exempt from employment standards laws; and
- Thousands of workers in health, janitorial, food service, technology, forestry and other sectors can lose pay and benefits – or even their job – when their employer’s contract is re-tendered.
We encourage everyone to attend a Day of Mourning ceremony in your community, fly your flags at half-mast, and observe a minute of silence at 11:00 am on April 28, 2019. This is how we honour those we have lost, and deliver the promise of safe work to those to come.
Mourn the dead. Fight for the living.
On March 19, the pre-election federal budget was released. It included measures to “improve access in post-secondary by: lowering interest rates on student loans, expansion of the graduate scholarship program, and new funding streams for Inuit and Metis learners and minimal increases for First Nations students,” as noted by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) in their budget commentary.
These positive measures are welcome additions to the actions taken by the BC government in its February budget: eliminating interest on BC student loans, continuing to fund Adult Basic Education, and increasing funding for more seats in early childhood education and technology. Since then, the government has added to their actions on affordability by launching TogetherBC, BC’s first poverty reduction plan. This announcement is the exciting result of years of advocacy led by the Poverty Reduction Coalition, which we're proud to be a part of.
With 80 per cent of future jobs predicted to require some level of post-secondary training, affordable, accessible education at our colleges, institutes and universities has never been more important. But affordability for students is just part of a post-secondary future we can be proud of. We also need to pay educators fairly and end the practice of paying contract academic staff far less than their colleagues. Read more about what our federation is doing on this issue in the Georgia Straight here.
A fair, affordable, accessible, post-secondary system will only be possible through strong public funding. Despite the evidence showing that only the richest are paying higher provincial taxes, the government continues to be pressured to cut taxes, imposing more financial hardship on our public services, from post-secondary to health care. I encourage you to read and share Reality check: Only BC’s very richest paying higher tax rate to see how most workers and families are paying less tax now than two years ago.
These are the challenges that remain before us as we look ahead to how to improve working conditions for educators and workers and reduce the financial burden of education for students. Here’s how you can help:
Better conditions for workers
Show your support for improvements to the Employment Standards Act
Affordability for students
Join the BC Federation of Students’ Knock Out Interest Campaign
Dignity and Respect for Everyone
Write to Minister Simpson thanking him for the Poverty Reduction Plan