It’s only half way through our annual cycle at FPSE, but we’ve already accomplished so much this year. Our combined efforts as educators, advocates, and members of the labour movement are yielding results, and I wanted to take a moment to celebrate our successes with you.
First of all, one of our top priorities has been to eliminate two pieces of anti-labour legislation that have curtailed negotiations and governance for many years. This fall marked two major victories to this end: the repeal of the Public Education Flexibility and Choice Act (Bill 28) from 2002, and rescinding changes to the College and Institutes Act from 2011, restricting faculty from sitting on their institution’s boards of governors. FPSE members have been outspoken critics of these “solutions in search of problems” and immediately made the current government aware of these issues when they came into office. Congratulations to all faculty and staff for championing the values of fairness and respect – our campuses are better for unions because of our efforts!
Another goal identified at our AGM was advocating for contract academic staff (also known as part-time, sessional and non-regular faculty). Doubly disadvantaged by no job security and lower pay than their colleagues, FPSE has been championing the need to address this issue for years. Our entire Presidents’ Council was in Victoria during Fair Employment Week (October 22 – 26), and spoke to government and MLAs about how this issue is impacting faculty and students in communities across BC. We’re also raising this issue in the media – you can hear an interview with me and North Island College Faculty Association President Shirley Ackland here.
It will take all of us working together to address the unfairness of contract academic work. You can show your support for fair employment by joining our Precarious Profs campaign here.
Educators deserve the same respect and dignity deserved by all workers, and we look forward to a renewed labour code to balance the scales between workers and employers.
On this note, the new year will bring a new round of collective bargaining. If you are an educator in BC, I encourage you to connect with your local bargaining committee to keep participating in this process.
Before we turn our minds to 2019, here are some other highlights from this past year:
- FPSE submitted a comprehensive response to the provincial government’s budget consultation, outlining the challenges faced in post-secondary. The Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services’ report reiterated many of FPSE’s recommendations, urging the government to inject more operating funds into the system, and calling for a major review of international education. FPSE also made submissions regarding the review of BC’s labour code, overseen by Labour Minister Harry Bains. You can read FPSE’s original submission, and response to the review panel’s recommendations here.
- Educators participated at the BCFED convention, speaking passionately to the need for affordable, accessible, and sustainable post-secondary education. Laird Cronk and Sussanne Skidmore were acclaimed president and secretary-treasurer of the BC Federation of Labour. Congratulations Laird and Sussanne!
- CAUT is setting up a new executive committee to focus on the issues at colleges and institutes: this comes from our long involvement with OPSEU and ACIFA in bringing matters of interest and concern to the wider post-secondary audience.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the successes of a number of programs the current government has implemented in the short 17 months since they have taken office:
- Tuition waivers for former youth in care have been a resounding success with hundreds of additional students enrolling in post-secondary institutions across BC;
- Tuition-free Adult Basic Education continues to provide learners with the option to pursue high school upgrading without a financial barrier;
- Thousands of families are accessing quality childcare by accessing the Affordable Child Care Benefit. Estimate your benefit here;
- The government introduced the Poverty Reduction Strategy Act, laying the groundwork for a poverty reduction strategy in BC.
These efforts to make life more affordable stand in stark contrast to the callous actions of the federal government in legislating our sisters, brothers, and friends at the Canadian Union of Postal Workers back to work. Postal workers have shocking rates of job-related injury as a result of the workload implications of online shopping and package delivery. Collective bargaining is a right that has been hard fought, and we must stay together in telling the government that they need to negotiate, not legislate. Show your support for the postal workers by signing this petition.
Happy holidays, and all the best for 2019!
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December 6th marks the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women, a day marked by the tragic Ecole Polytechnique mass shooting in Montreal in 1989. These women were killed because of their gender. While acts of mass violence are rare in Canada, women in every province and territory are affected by the vocal resurgence of hate groups around the world. This worrying trend underlines the importance of December 6th: to demonstrate our remembrance through action against hatred and violence.
The recognition that sexism and racism are sometimes combined, not separate issues, is important to our collective work to reject intolerance. Just as we must recognize that violence against women continues, we must also recognize that women can and are affected by racial bigotry as well. The combination of sexism and racism is especially apparent in health and wellbeing outcomes for Indigenous women: discrimination and the threat of violence are felt in policing, our judicial system, in our homes – and in our classrooms.
Faculty know this: that’s why delegates made “addressing racism and promoting anti-racist strategies” one of our federation’s strategic goals at our AGM in May.
There are a vast number of ways to make a difference and reject sexism. Here are just a few things you can do at the individual and collective level to make your classroom, campus, and community a safer space for all:
- Look at your curriculum: are you including works or reference to female academics, including female academics with disabilities, or female academics of colour? This is especially important if you do not identify within these groups, as promoting these academics tends to disproportionately fall to those who are themselves experiencing oppression and violence.
- Do your female colleagues, and/or colleagues of colour feel supported and safe in their work? How diverse is the faculty, operational staff and management?
- Check with your local faculty association to see if they have a Status of Women committee (FPSE policy 7.11). If not, join with your colleagues to create one.
- Finally – continue to connect your feminism with anti-racism and anti-discrimination. If you do not see a gender or racialized group represented in the governance structures around you, ask why. You may be able to identify, and help remove, a barrier that is allowing inequality to persist.
December 6 falls within the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, an international campaign with the goal of ending gender-based violence. It began on November 25, the International Day of the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until December 10, International Human Rights Day. I urge you to use this campaign as an opportunity to raise issues of sexist and/or racist policies, procedures or cultures with your union.
It is not enough to remember these victims of violence, or to acknowledge the discrimination that persists for millions of Canadians, and people around the world. We must use our place(s) of privilege – as union members, as educators, and any number of other demographic factors – to dismantle these structures and practices that keep people oppressed and subject to hatred, violence, and fear. Whether subtle or overt, intolerance is making our colleagues, students, family members and friends suffer. This is unignorable and unacceptable and it will take all of us working together to make a difference.
Vancouver, BC, Nov 19, 2018 – The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC have endorsed Laird Cronk and Sussanne Skidmore in their bid for the positions of BC Federation of Labour president and secretary-treasurer.
“I can’t think of a better team to be able to continue the work of the BCFED under outgoing president and secretary-treasurer Irene Lanzinger and Aaron Ekman than Laird and Sussanne. Their complementary skills and experiences make them the right candidates to take on the leadership of the BCFED,” said FPSE president George Davison.
“The BCFED provides an important voice for the workers of our province and has proved to be an effective advocate for both union and non-union workers through campaigns like Fight for 15. I would like to thank Irene and Aaron for their thoughtful and principled leadership which has served our movement and our province so well,” continued Davison.
FPSE secretary-treasurer Terri Van Steinburg added that Laird and Sussanne’s private and public sector union knowledge, as well as their history of supporting social justice movements, are the right combination at the right time.
“Laird and Sussanne’s depth of knowledge of all aspects of the labour movement will be a tremendous asset in making sure all workers in BC are respected and treated fairly. The previous government caused a lot of damage to protections that used to exist for workers. Laird and Sussanne know this and have shown their commitment to repairing this damage and making sure all people are safe, respected, and fairly compensated on the job. I’m proud to support their candidacy for BCFED president and secretary-treasurer,” concluded Van Steinburg.
FPSE represents 10,000 educators in BC public and private post-secondary institutions.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the conclusion of World War 1. On Sunday, I’ll be joining with thousands across the province at Remembrance Day ceremonies to mark this milestone and remember the sacrifices of so many service people. Remembrance Day prompted profound dialogue in my history classrooms centred around the question: “How Canada edged from colony to nation, what was the impact on soldiers and Canadian society, and, to bring it up to date, how do we find a balance in responsible use and care for those in our military with our role in the global community to offer humanitarian aid and peacekeeping?” The importance of this question is only growing larger as our knowledge about the world increases, and the lasting impact of conflict is better understood over time.
This is yet another example of the influence of educators: you challenge students to think critically about how past events and decisions have brought us to the present day and to challenge their beliefs in the systems and structures of our country and the world.
But our influence and responsibility is greater than just to our students: we are only able to engage in our work because of the relative peace and stability offered by democracy. Despite the flaws of this process, it is still the best system of group decision-making we have found to move us forward towards a society of greater equality. This applies equally to our political representation and your representation in your union.
This brings us to a historic opportunity in BC: to move from a first-past-the-post electoral system, which allows governments to gain complete control with less than majority support, to a system that truly reflects all votes cast. That’s why our federation has endorsed voting yes to proportional representation, and why I urge you to do the same.
There are two problems inherent in how most people experience representative democracy: the feeling that your vote doesn’t “count,” and that most people only experience our democracy through voting once every 4 years without consideration beyond that action. The combination of proportional representation and post-secondary education can tackle both these problems.
Our education systems can teach students to be active, critical and engaged citizens. Most students are taught to be followers, i.e. good workers and consumers, but good, passive followers aren’t exactly good at holding governments accountable. So the work you do as educators (as union activists and faculty and staff at your institutions) to promote the democratic process and critical thinking and learning democracy is vital to an informed and engaged population. Thank you for the work you do to challenge and inform all post-secondary learners.
By voting ourselves, and encouraging those around us to participate in our political process and civil society, we can be part of creating a freer and fairer world. By doing this we remember the sacrifices made in the past and act on the responsibilities of the present.
You should have received your ballot last week – please mail in your ballot today so it is received by the 4:30 pm November 30 deadline! If you haven’t received your ballot, or need to learn more about what is being proposed, visit Elections BC.
Two weeks ago, the BC NDP government introduced Bill 36, allowing faculty union executive members to sit on their institution’s board. Despite opposition from the BC Liberals, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark held firm. The bill passed after a week of debate, and is now in effect.
This is a huge victory for faculty in BC
We advocated for this change from the moment the new government came in, and now, thanks to Premier John Horgan and Minister Mark, this unfair, anti-union legislation is off the books. Faculty will no longer be denied professional opportunities because of their union activism, and post-secondary boards will be all the better for hearing their voices.
Our work isn’t done
This Saturday, we will vote in local government elections, and the provincial referendum on proportional representation. I urge you to participate in both of these important opportunities! By voting in the municipal election, you’ll have your voice heard on the issues that matter to you. Affordability, housing, and education are crucial issues and the mayor, council, and school board you elect will determine actions taken on each.
The 2018 Referendum on Electoral Reform is our chance to move to a voting system that works for people, one where 40 per cent of the vote means 40 per cent of the seats. In May, FPSE members voted to endorse proportional representation to make sure our votes count in every election.
Here’s how to participate:
- Read up on candidates for city council, school board and / or park board
- Your local labour council may have recommended candidates
- Election day is Saturday October 20, 2018
- Make sure you’re registered to vote –check your status with Elections BC
- This referendum is a mail-in ballot; voting packages will be mailed out starting October 22
- Vote by mail as soon as you receive your ballot (FREE)
There will be two questions. You do not need to answer both questions. The first question asks if we should keep the current first past the post voting system or move to proportional representation. We recommend voting to move to a system of proportional representation.
The second question asks voters to rank three proportional representation systems: Dual Member Proportional (DMP), Mixed Member Proportional (MMP), and Rural-Urban Proportional (RUP). You do not need to answer this question. We recommend any of these voting systems – you can read about the benefits of each system here.
I’ll be voting in both of these elections and I hope you’ll join me! Let’s use our voices (and votes!) to make our communities and province better for educators and their families.
September 5, 2018 | Vancouver, BC—George Davison, President of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC, comments on this afternoon’s announcement by the Provincial and Federal government:
“Today’s announcements give more students the opportunity to become educators themselves, and builds on the partnership of the provincial and federal government to expand availability and affordability of post-secondary education across BC. The coupling of BC’s historic childcare plan with investment from both levels of government to expand access and affordability of public post-secondary early childhood education programs is exactly the boost our economy and society needs. Students, families, and communities will benefit from the connection between learning opportunities and local employment since 80% of future jobs will require post-secondary education. The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC commends both levels of government on the measures announced today that mean more people across BC will be able to pursue their dream of providing education for children across BC.”
Facts on post-secondary early childhood education
• Today’s announcement builds on additional early-childhood educator seats at post-secondary institutions across BC:
30 seats | College of the Rockies
24 seats | Selkirk College
24 seats | Vancouver Island University
12 seats | University of the Fraser Valley
24 seats | North Island College
12 seats | College of New Caledonia
72 seats | University of British Columbia
24 seats | Langara College
Total = 222 seats
George Davison is available to comment on today’s announcement.
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Today we recognize and celebrate Labour Day across BC and Canada. Over the course of almost 150 years, we have seen that when working people organize for better working conditions, quality of life for everyone in our society improves. Change may not be easy, but the gains achieved – reasonable working hours, the right to bargain collectively, the weekend, and paid maternity leave – have raised the standard of living in Canada for decades. However, an increase in low-wage, precarious work put these gains at risk. Now more than ever, we need to organize and stay united to insist on employment that gives every working person the dignity they deserve: a living wage and a balanced life.
We know this can be done. In 1983, union members, activists, and people from all walks of life joined together in a coordinated opposition to the devastating cuts proposed by the Social Credit government of the day. In July 1983, the government tabled 26 acts of legislation which attacked human, civil, and labour rights. The bills gave the government the ability to fire government employees without cause, rescind collective bargaining rights such as the ability to schedule overtime, and abolished the Human Rights Branch and Human Rights Commission. Operation Solidarity brought together working people in opposition to these cuts through a series of protests and strikes, and 5 months after the regressive legislation was introduced, labour peace was restored with the signing of the Kelowna Accord.
Operation Solidarity demonstrates what is possible when political, social, and labour action are combined. Here at FPSE, we know this to be true. You and your colleagues have made progress in difficult rounds of collective bargaining, contributed to the last year’s change in government, and participate in all manner of social justice movements. With public sector agreements expiring next spring, we’ll continue to work together at the bargaining table with our first round of bargaining with this government. By remembering the lessons of the past, we’ll be better prepared to make the most of our upcoming negotiations.
This Labour Day, we’ll join with other unions, educators and families from the Lower Mainland at the PNE Labour Day celebration. I encourage you to drop by a Labour Day event organized by your local Labour Council to celebrate with others in your community as we work together to create a more fair and just province.
Happy Labour Day!
The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is concerned that the recent diplomatic exchange between Canada’s Foreign Affairs department and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has resulted in direction for all Saudi students to leave Canadian schools. This decision has resulted in the unfortunate interruption of the studies of hundreds of students in BC, and thousands across Canada, and has taken away the opportunity of classmates & communities to learn from the rich culture and history of Saudi Arabia.
FPSE commends the Canadian government for calling attention to human rights abuses, regardless of where they occur. FPSE advocates for affordable, accessible education for all regardless of income, gender, religion, political affiliation, or geographic region, and as such advocates for the recognition of human and civil rights in Canada and across the world as a necessary pre-condition required for broad and fair educational access. People of all nations are better equipped to navigate our interconnected global marketplace of ideas and industries with the ability to learn from, and in, other countries. Guided by this principle, FPSE consistently calls on all levels of government to expand access to education and to consider policy positions through a human and civil rights lens.
FPSE also acknowledges the tremendous contribution of Saudi students and scholars to our classes and institutions, and the benefits both Canada and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have enjoyed through our educational and cultural exchanges and experiences for several decades. FPSE respectfully encourages the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to reconsider the directive pertaining to students studying in Canada so we may continue and build upon this relationship.