This has been quite a year, for FPSE, and for BC. From our Open the Doors Days of Action in January, to a new government sworn in after 16 years, to Minister Melanie Mark meeting with our Presidents’ Council in Victoria, 2017 has been a whirlwind of activity and change.
Here’s a brief look back at what we’ve been able to accomplish together:
January – Locals in all corners of the province held Days of Action as part of our Open the Doors campaign. People signed our Education Pledge, and shared the campaign with their friends and colleagues.
February – Open the Doors ads circulated in newspapers, on the radio waves, and via social media.
March – We took the Open the Doors campaign to Victoria. Thanks to Rob Fleming, then Advanced Education Critic, for presenting over 25,000 signatures in the legislature.
April – We held our largest campaign Telephone Town Hall where thousands joined us for a live discussion around the changes we need in post-secondary education.
May – The BC election produced an extremely rare result, and we held our FPSE AGM in Victoria. At the end of the month, the NDP and Green Party signed a Confidence and Supply Agreement.
June – Premier Christy Clark met the Legislature, presented a Speech from the Throne that looked like the NDP & Green platforms, and lost a vote of non-confidence. The Lieutenant-Governor asked John Horgan to form government, which he did.
July – The new government was sworn in on July 18.
August – At Camosun College, Premier John Horgan, Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark, and Education Minister Rob Fleming announced that Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning programs would again be tuition-free.
September – At Vancouver Island University, Premier John Horgan, Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark and Katrina Conroy, Minister for Children and Families, announced that former youth in care would now be able to access tuition waivers for any public post-secondary institution in BC. Ten days later, Finance Minster Carole James released the government's first budget update, putting $19 million towards ABE/ELL tuition.
October – Our Presidents’ Council went to Victoria and met with Minister Melanie Mark. It was a positive conversation, and we look forward to continuing the discussion around ways we can make post-secondary education more affordable and accessible, and the system more sustainable, next year.
November – College faculty were legislated back to work by the Ontario Liberal government after employers refused to come to a fair settlement with workers that led to a five-week strike. While the post-secondary landscape differs between BC and Ontario, we have both seen growth in precarious part-time work for educators, which poses problems for the entire post-secondary system.
December – our new FPSE committee focused on decolonization, reconciliation, and Indigenization in post-secondary met for the first time. I’d like to thank each of these committee members for sharing their knowledge and passion with us, and congratulate Sharon McIvor and Justin Wilson on being elected co-chairs of the committee.
With all we’ve been able to accomplish this year, I can’t wait to begin 2018. Enjoy a safe and happy holiday season and new year!
Today the BC government has announced that construction of the Site C Dam project will proceed, describing the decision as making the best of a bad deal given that $4 billion dollars would be added to the public debt if the project was cancelled. In his announcement, Premier Horgan noted that this issue has been contentious and divisive, and that this decision will disappoint many people. The Premier recognized that this decision does not have unanimous consent from Indigenous Nations, and said the government will do their best to mitigate the impact of the project on the affected Nations.
We have experienced the divisiveness of this issue within our own federation: FPSE has 10,000 members, faculty and staff, at 18 public post-secondary institutions and several private EAL schools. Each of these locals are autonomous, independent unions. Our members include Indigenous educators, staff, and environmentalists who are totally opposed to Site C, as well as other instructors who support Site C.
In addition, all of the work done to date was under terms dictated by the previous BC Liberal government who pushed the project past the point of no return. Much of the work done so far has been done by non-union, non-BC workers.
FPSE members passed a resolution at our May AGM that called on the government to respond to the following conditions: immediately stop imminent land expropriations, refer the project to the BC Utilities Commission for review, and consult with Indigenous peoples in the affected area. We recognize that the BC government has met the first two conditions, but we remain committed to the principle of free, prior and informed consent as an inherent right of Indigenous peoples that helps ensure their survival, dignity, and well-being and do not believe the spirit of this principle has been met in this decision. Site C does not have the support of all Treaty 8 First Nations; the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations have been opposed to the project. These nations have pledged to challenge the decision in court as a violation of Treaty 8 and have indicated that they will join the current lawsuit led by the Blueberry River First Nation regarding the irreparable damage to the land from large-scale industrial use.
Approval of this project also means the loss of productive farmland, and destruction of old growth boreal forests and one of the most important wildlife corridors in the Yellowstone to Yukon migration corridor chain.
We need to forge a nation to nation relationship between Indigenous peoples and the BC government and this decision does not further that goal. We are disappointed in today's decision.
Today, we remember the victims of the 1989 massacre at Montreal’s École Polytechnique, on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
It was twenty-eight years ago on December 6, 1989, that fourteen women were murdered at L’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal by a man who shouted that he was fighting feminism. Many women just like them were in classrooms across the province today - as educators, staff, and students. It is difficult to think that such a horrific act could happen here, but many of our colleagues, students, and friends live with violence every day.
We remember these lives lost, and are committed to taking action to prevent tragedies like this in the future. One step we are taking is participating in Minister Melanie Mark's public engagement regarding Sexual Violence Policies at post-secondary institutions in BC, and we encourage faculty, staff, and students to participate as well. By making our institutions places where women are safe and sexual violence is not tolerated, we can contribute to making our province and country safe.
Acting to prevent violence, including sexual violence, includes a broader conversation about protecting human rights in BC. The provincial government also recently undertook public engagement to hear from organizations and individuals in BC on re-establishing the Human Rights Commission. We strongly believe that a Human Rights Commission can play a key role in exposing, and providing remedies for inequalities that remain in our society - you can read our submission here.
This day has been incorporated into the United Nation’s 16 Days of Activism (November 25-Dec 10) that began with the International Day to End Violence Against Women and concludes with International Human Rights Day. Too many people live with fear in their lives, and we are committed to making our classrooms and communities safe for everyone.
Today marks the start of Fair Employment Week which runs from October 23-27.
This year is the 10th anniversary of Fair Employment Week, a week of action to raise the profile of precarious employment in our post-secondary institutions.
Despite our best efforts, the number of precariously employed academics has grown tremendously over the last ten years. Currently in BC precarious instructors form over half the staff of some of our institutions. These instructors work hard to deliver world class education. However, they are faced with low pay, constant financial stress, and no job security. This is a disservice to those instructors, to the students, and to the community.
As I write this, instructors in Ontario are on the picket lines, standing up for quality education and fair employment. I am proud to support them as they fight for the fairness we are seeking here in BC, and across Canada. I know that all of FPSE stands in solidarity with our Ontario colleagues.
Fair employment is a cornerstone of the labour movement. People deserve equal pay for equal work, and to share in the benefits of the organization in which they work. This is not only the right thing to do, but the financially responsible thing to do.
On a larger scale, the trend toward short-term contract work will diminish the quality of education institutions are able to offer students. The constant hiring of large numbers of sessionals deprives students of the ability to plan classes with specific instructors and to more fully engage in the learning process with those instructors. Because sessionals are hired only to teach, the institutions are also deprived of a large pool of experience and talent which could, and should, be engaged in developing and improving curriculum to keep apace of our fast-changing world.
In BC, we continue the fight against precarity. FPSE members stand together in the fight to get better pay and working conditions for our precariously employed colleagues. By staying strong and united, we have made gains at the bargaining table to provide access to regular long-term work for contract faculty. But there is much more to do.
We are continuing our Precarious Profs campaign, and raising this issue with the BC government. You can help by taking part in the following ways:
- Sign our Precarious Profs petition to show your support for fair employment. http://www.precariousprofsbc.ca/take_action
- Share the stories of precariously employed faculty through Facebook and Twitter
- If you are a full or part-time instructor in the Lower Mainland, attend the Fair Employment Week pub night on October 26.
- If you have had a teaching contract at a polytechnic, college or a university in Canada in 2016/17, take the Canadian Association of University Teachers Contract Academic Staff survey.
- Participate in the Fair Employment Week activities at your college, institute, or university.
Thanks for your support.
September 11, 2017 | VICTORIA, BC—The Budget Update announced today by the BC government demonstrates the government’s commitment to increasing access to post-secondary education. Following the recent announcement to eliminate tuition fees for adult basic education and English language learning classes, the Budget Update outlines the funding for these programs.
“Students and faculty have been calling for the elimination of tuition fees for adult basic education for several years,” said Simka Marshall, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students (BCFS). “The removal of financial barriers for adult education programs will allow some of the most marginalized people in our communities to access basic upgrading and education.”
The Budget Update allocates $19 million in funding for adult basic education and English language learning in the post-secondary and K-12 sectors for the remainder of the 2017-18 year. The government has not provided forecasts for the following years, saying that appropriate funding will be budgeted based on enrolment changes in this current academic year.
“After 16 years of neglect from the previous government on issues related to post-secondary education ranging from tuition fees to working conditions to funding, this government has taken the refreshing position of listening to stakeholders and acting quickly to make improvements for both students and educators,” said George Davison, President of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC (FPSE). “While there is still much work to do, including reinstating funding for Adult Special Education programs, we commend the government for their action thus far. We look forward to working with them to continue improving the choices and opportunities in post-secondary education for all British Columbians.”
The BC Liberal government eliminated $6.9 million in funding for post-secondary adult basic education programs in December 2014. At the same time, they allowed tuition fees of as much as $1,600 per semester be charged. Since that time enrolment in these programs has declined dramatically—by as much as 60% at some institutions. Since 2013, roughly $15 million has been cut to English language learning programs offered through post-secondary institutions.
The BC Federation of Students represents over 150,000 post-secondary students at 14 universities and colleges in every region of BC. The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC represents 10,000 faculty and staff at BC’s colleges, universities, and institutes.
For more information, please contact:
Simka Marshall, BCFS Chairperson (604) 733-1880
Nicole Seguin, FPSE Communications Officer (604) 831-6684
Across the country, on September 4th we will celebrate Labour Day and the living history of unions across BC and Canada. From the print workers who organized for a reasonable workday almost 150 years ago, to public service workers who defied the government of the day and went on strike for collective bargaining rights, to all the union members and activists working today to improve the health and safety of our working conditions and ensure an inclusive and welcoming workplace for all, Labour Day is a testament to the power of collective organizing.
By working together in solidarity, workers - and different unions - have won many hard-fought battles. Their successes have led to many of the benefits we enjoy today: a limited workday, paid overtime, weekends and paid vacation, and the right to safe and healthy work environments. In addition to fighting for workers’ rights at the bargaining table and on the picket line, labour organizations have also advocated for better policies for working people at all levels of government. By taking the concerns of members to those in elected office, organized labour has achieved many victories for those across our cities, province, and country.
Here at FPSE, we are grateful to everyone who joined and supported our campaigns in the lead-up to the provincial election to strengthen post-secondary education in BC, including the many unions who gave their support – thank you. We can be proud that together we voted for post-secondary education and for working people across the province. Already, we have seen that the new government has listened to our voice: just weeks after taking office they removed tuition from Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning, they’ve lowered the rate of interest in student loans to prime (on the way to eliminating interest on student loans altogether), and they’ve committed to raising the minimum wage. These are definitive actions in the early days of the new government that will make life more affordable for working people, and education more accessible for learners of all ages.
These changes, and the promise of a government that will continue to listen to the concerns of labour, mark the beginning of a new season in BC. We know firsthand the challenges our members, students, and families are facing in BC regarding the costs of post-secondary education, and we’re looking forward to working with the new government to begin finding solutions to the historic underfunding of the system. Just as this situation took years to develop, it will take time to fix but with our sustained efforts and a government with a demonstrated willingness to act, progress can be made.
This Labour Day, I look forward to honouring the legacy of the union activists who came before us with folks in the community and friends in labour at the Labour Day picnic at Holland Park in Surrey. I encourage you to also drop by a Labour Day event organized by your local Labour Council to celebrate with others in your community.
In 1991, the FPSE (then CIEA) produced and circulated 250,000 copies of an election pamphlet titled Today’s education – Tomorrow’s Opportunities: An Advanced Education and Training Agenda for British Columbians, marking the federation’s first foray into electoral activism.
We argued that all British Columbians should be able to receive the post-secondary education they need or want, and that our future depends upon removing all barriers to advanced education – financial, geographic, language, gender or disability. We understood then, as we do now, that our future depends upon government making stable, long-term investments in post-secondary education.
Since then, our advocacy has expanded in print and online, and the federation takes an active role in advocating for post-secondary education during elections.
IN 1991 WE PROPOSED:
- That post-secondary education be treated as an investment in the future of our province, rather than an expense to be slashed when times are tough.
- That B.C. commit itself to meet at least the national standard for the participation of students in post-secondary education.
- That B.C. spend at least the national average on student assistance programs.
- That B.C. offer post-secondary students a universal non-repayable grant as do other provinces and that high student debtload be eliminated.
- That tuition fees for students, which are among the highest in the country, be frozen.
- That the real costs of quality post-secondary education be recognized and provided and that funding be put in place to repair our post-secondary system and improve quality, as well as to support enrolment growth.
- That funding per student be returned to at least its 1981/82 level plus inflation.
- That the government immediately provide additional funds to support career, technology and vocational programs.
- That the provincial government make a commitment to our public post-secondary system. Privatization of vocational and career programs is neither cost-efficient nor does it guarantee all qualified students an affordable, quality education.
The events of recent days begun by the white supremacist rally at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville have been a disgusting display of racism and hate that have overtly demonstrated what so many people of colour in our communities experience every day. As educators and citizens, we condemn in the strongest possible terms white supremacy, Nazism, racism, and all forms of racial hatred. We recognize that our classrooms and campuses are not immune from these dangerous actions and rhetoric, and that we play a role in ensuring that hatred and bigotry have no place in our educational institutions and organizations. We stand in solidarity with the students, faculty, staff, friends, and family whose safety is jeopardized by the violent hatred being voiced. White supremacy is not an opposing point of view to be heard; it is hate speech and an affront to humanity. As long as any of us are unsafe, we are all unsafe.
And while it’s important to stand in solidarity and to condemn such hatred, it’s imperative that we also use whatever power, influence, and privilege we may have to disrupt institutional and systemic racism through action. At FPSE, our Human Rights & International Solidarity Committee is continuously developing strategies for achieving equity in our institutions and in our communities, and our annual Speakers Tour benefits from the diverse voices of those who have generously participated. At our AGM earlier this year, our membership unanimously supported the creation and funding of a committee devoted to implementing the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission through decolonizing our educational spaces and supporting the work of Indigenous leaders in revising and adding to the curriculum across all institutions in BC.
As a federation of unions, we are part of the history of labour in the civil rights and human rights movements. As activists and allies, we have been part of the fight to enshrine our rights in law, but laws remain abstract until they rectify actual wrongs through citizen action and practical change. Despite the gains that have been achieved, it is obvious that there is much more to do to make Canada truly safe for all.
The basis of learning is the safety to do so. We will continue to resist and speak out against racism, hatred, and violence. We will listen and learn from our students and faculty about where we can make our places of work and learning safe, even when those conversations and actions are uncomfortable for us. We will remain vigilant and committed to the safety and security within and beyond the post-secondary system for everyone working, learning, and living in BC.
If you are able, I encourage you to join Stand Up to Racism Metro Vancouver rally tomorrow, Saturday August 19 in Vancouver. There is a meet-up organized by labour at the Broadway City Hall Skytrain station (W Broadway and Cambie), with participants marching to the rally at 12:30pm. Together, we can show that white supremacy and hatred have no place here.
After years of lobbying, the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC (FPSE) is delighted with news that Premier John Horgan has restored funding to Adult Basic Education and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs in B.C.
Cuts to ESL education announced by Ottawa in late 2013 led to huge tuition fees for ESL students, and provincial cuts to adult basic education, starting in January 2015, shut the door on post-secondary ambitions for many adult learners. The introduction of fees for ESL and adult basic education disproportionately affected low income earners, single parents, newcomers, refugees, and aboriginal students.
FPSE President George Davison attended the funding announcement Tuesday, August 8, at Camosun College in Victoria, where he met with Premier Horgan, Advanced Education, Skills and Training Minister Melanie Mark, and Education Minister Rob Fleming.
“Premier Horgan’s announcement marks the end of a three-year campaign to ensure that adult learners and newcomers have access to basic education and language training in B.C.” said Davison. “Our members were clear that adult basic education and English language programs provided foundational skills essential to secure employment and further post-secondary learning.”
The premier’s announcement is a victory for our members. Our Open the Doors campaign resulted in pre-election commitments to restore funding for these essential programs from the BC NDP and BC Greens, and from the BC Liberals in their aborted Throne Speech. The announcement is an important step in making sure that our education system is more affordable and accessible for all.
“This is good news for our members, and for anyone who cares about education in our province. But our work isn’t over,” said Davison. “There are a number of serious issues still facing our members in both public and private institutions throughout B.C., and we will continue to press the new government on those issues, including improving the trades training system, addressing affordability for students and student debt levels, the casualization of precarious academic work, and fulfilling the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”
As educators and staff in the post-secondary education system, we know creating a safe environment where every person’s human and civil rights are respected is crucial to a productive learning environment. We also know that this work does not end at the classroom door, and I am so proud to stand with our member faculty and staff in solidarity with the LGBTQ2*+ community.
Across BC, Pride parades and events mark a meaningful time to celebrate progress being made within our communities, especially the significant advances that have been made in the past year:
- July 25, 2016: In BC, Bill 27 was passed in to law, adding gender identity and expression protection to the Human Rights Code.
- June 19, 2017: Bill C-16 received Royal Assent and became federal law, adding protection of gender identity and expression to the Canadian Human Rights Code and the Criminal Code.
This is also a time to reflect on the work that is still to be done to achieve an entirely free, just, safe, and inclusive society. At home and abroad, many people are under threat of persecution and worse due to their gender identity, expression, or sexual orientation.
FPSE encourages all members to show support for LGBTQ2*+ equity by taking part in Pride celebrations in your communities. Pride festivals are an opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments, and to keep working for a society where everybody is free to express who they are and free to love who they want.