On behalf of 10,000 post-secondary educators at BC’s colleges, institutes, and teaching universities, we call on the BC government to respect the Aboriginal rights of the Treaty 8 First Nations, especially the indigenous peoples of the Peace River watershed.
We further call on the BC government to uphold that principle and immediately to refer the Site C dam project for review and recommendations under Section 5 of the BC Utilities Commission Act, and additionally, to delay issuance of any further permits or authorizations until such review has been completed and until the courts have decided on First Nations’ land issues at stake. The principle of free, prior and informed consent is an inherent right of Indigenous peoples that helps ensure their survival, dignity, and well-being. There can be no reconciliation without respect for fundamental human rights.
We urge the BC government to pay heed to the Treaty 8 First Nations, who are opposed to the proposed Site C Project for a number of reasons, including the cost to ratepayers, the environmental impacts, and the loss of sacred archeological and burial sites, as well as the impacts on their Treaty rights.
The Peace River Valley is home to Treaty 8 First Nations’ hunting, fishing, and trapping grounds, fertile agricultural lands and farms, old growth boreal forests, and is one of the most important wildlife corridors in the Yellowstone to Yukon migration corridor chain. The proposed site of the dam also has some of the best agricultural land in northern BC, capable of feeding a million people.
If this project is not stopped, the Site C Dam will destroy wildlife-sustaining habitat that has supplied generations of First Nations people with food and cultural sustenance for thousands of years. It will destroy one of the largest and most important wildlife corridors on the continent, and submerge valuable carbon sinks instead of promoting food security and the need to adapt to climate change. This project will cause irreparable harm to the environment, while costing British Columbians an estimated $8 billion in the process. It will also destroy the site of the earliest European occupation in BC.
The Peace River Valley is a special and unique place and cannot be replaced. The impacts of the project are significant, far-reaching, and cannot be mitigated.
Please join us in the call to stop this project before it is too late.
As the people who work and teach in BC’s public post-secondary institutions, we experience firsthand, every day, how government policy is failing students and families. It’s time for a change of direction.
Until recently, all British Columbians had the opportunity to attend a college or university that was comprehensive, affordable, and accessible to students. Not anymore. Since this government took office in 2001, average tuition fees are 220% higher, provincial funding has steadily declined in real dollars, and government revenue from student fees is 400% higher.
Shifting the cost of education onto you, our students, has had devastating effects. When you graduate, you’ll have the highest levels of debt nationwide and the highest interest rates: BC’s average debt burden is $35,000 after four years. Some people won’t have the chance to enrol in the first place, because programs like adult basic education and English language learning, which used to be free, are now unaffordable.
The government predicts that 80% of future jobs will require post-secondary education, so why do they continually reduce investment in our colleges and universities and force students to pay more and more?
As educators, we believe our students should have the opportunity to contribute to a vibrant, diverse, modern economy without being forced into crippling debt. Many forward-looking jurisdictions are making post-secondary education more affordable but BCis moving in exactly the opposite direction.
The truth is that underfunding post-secondary education is bad for students, bad for the economy, and bad for the future of our province.
We’re ready to help our students learn, innovate, and meet the needs of our province in the 21st century but we can’t do it alone. We have proposed solutions at openthedoors.ca. With your help, we can make BC debt-free for students and families.
On May 9, vote for a government that cares as much about your future, your children’s future, and the future of our province as you do. Vote to invest in post-secondary education. Vote to invest in people.
Authorized by FPSE; George Davison, registered sponsor under the Election Act, 604-873-8988
International Women’s Day is an annual opportunity to reflect on how global events are affecting women and to take action in our own communities. For many of us, this is our year-round work, part of who we are and what we do every day in our lives. International Women’s Day is our chance to share our work with others.
This year, the work of International Women’s Day started a couple months early. On January 21, 2017, women and allies all over the world joined what started as a local Women’s March on Washington, but quickly became a global event. Over 1 million people marched in Washington, D.C. and over 5 million worldwide, protesting the statements and policies of the newly sworn-in Donald Trump.
The marches began as a response to what many see as misogynist behaviour and speech from the new president, and grew to include many other issues as well. Thousands of marchers carried signs and placards expressing their dismay or outrage at Trump’s policies or in solidarity with those people who are more vulnerable under the Trump administration.
As is so often the case when we organize for change, these marches weren’t without controversy. Since they took place feminists and allies have been engaged in the deep work of reflection about what we’ve learned and about the need applying an intersectional lens to every event we organize. Intersectionality is about seeking understanding of how individuals and systemic barriers or discrimination intersect. It’s about understanding what we mean when we speak of “privilege” and accepting that some of us may experience certain barriers but still have considerable privilege relative to others, because of systemic discrimination – and vice versa.
Post-secondary educators and academics tend to have a considerable amount of privilege. We tend (with some exceptions) to be better educated, better paid, and have access to more information and resources than many other segments of the population. We are called upon as experts in our fields; we speak with authority both in and out of the classroom. We also attend, participate in, and organize a lot of events, such as conferences and panel discussions. For those of us also active in our unions, our opportunities to organize events are even greater.
It’s important that when we’re organizing an event, we consider what steps we take to ensure we have diverse voices reflected among the speakers or panelists. Have we endeavoured to have diversity amongst participants? Have we asked participants to identify access needs and made every effort to accommodate them? Here at FPSE, we’re paying close attention to these issues, and this year, we’ll be offering a workshop on building inclusive movements.
These topics - intersectionality, discrimination, and privilege - are often uncomfortable. It’s easy for feelings to be hurt, for anger to arise, for resentment to surface. To be identified by someone else as being privileged but unaware of it – and thereby inadvertently behaving or speaking in a discriminatory manner - can be shocking for those of us who see ourselves as progressive feminists. The discomfort is not only to be expected, it’s a necessary part of the growth and learning. It is incumbent upon all of us to recognize our own privilege where it exists, to name it, and to make every effort to listen and learn from those whose privilege is less than our own.
This International Women’s Day, let’s all commit to examining the parts we play in building a stronger, more diverse and inclusive movement – one that has space for everyone and that challenges us to learn and grow. Let’s ensure that systemically-marginalized voices are heard and that “International Women’s Day” means “intersectional” too.
It’s an election year, and that means a budget full of goodies to woo the voters to cast their May 9 ballots for this government in the hopes of being elected for a fifth term.
But is there enough in BC Budget 2017 to make us forget everything that’s been taken away from us over the past 15 years?
As the people who work and teach in BC’s colleges, teaching universities, and institutes, our members know all too well how hard hit the public post-secondary system has been under this government. Operating grants have declined by 20% when you account for inflation; programs have been reduced, rationalized, or eliminated; wages haven’t kept up with inflation; and precarious work is on the rise. Adult basic education, adult special education, and English language learning programs have become far less accessible with the elimination of the tuition-free policy and the implementation of a regressive voucher-style upgrading grant. Trades training programs – which appear to be the only areas in public post-secondary education still getting new infusions of government funding – are benefitting from new buildings, but still lack any commitment to creating more apprenticeship opportunities for the students in these programs.
While institutions are being squeezed to cut costs and balance budgets, government revenue from tuition and other fees has ballooned, in spite of the 2% tuition cap. In 2001, tuition revenue was $452 million; this year it’s forecast to reach $1.8 billion. The average student debt in BC after completing a 4-year degree program is $35,000. To add insult to injury, the government has been charging the highest interest rate on student loans in Canada.
Every year, FPSE members and student union activists from all over the province participate in the pre-budget consultation hearings held by the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services. Every year, we make a number of recommendations to address this growing list of funding challenges faced by our members and our students. Every year, that bipartisan committee concurs with us and includes our recommendations in their report. And every year, the government tables a budget that fails to address any of those recommendations.
This year wasn’t much different. The 1% increase to operating grants doesn’t even cover inflation and is totally inadequate to meet the growing cost pressures faced by our institutions. There was nothing for ABE, ASE, or ELL programs. There was nothing for trades and apprenticeship programs. There were no improvements to student grants.
What was different this year was an announcement that the interest charged on student loans would be reduced, from prime + 2.5% to just prime. This counts as a victory for FPSE and BC Federation of Students’ campaign efforts to raise awareness of the growing student debt crisis. But it doesn’t come close to addressing the desperate need for debt relief for most BC students.
The budget documents show that the interest rate reduction will cost the government $11.3 million this year. When you look at the forecasted increase in tuition revenue – an increase of $85 million in the coming year – that $11.3 million is a drop in the bucket. The government will still be raking in an additional $74 million compared to last year.
Additionally, while it’s estimated that 205,000 people will benefit from the reduced interest rate, that works out to a meagre savings of just $55.12 per student debtor for the year.
Advanced education is just one small part of the province’s $50 billion budget. There’s plenty more in there: more pre-election spending, more of the money they took from your pockets being tucked back in. There’s also plenty that isn’t in there, like a poverty reduction plan, an increase to income assistance rates or the minimum wage, and an affordable child care plan, just to name a few.
So is there enough in BC Budget 2017 to make us forget what’s been taken away over the past 15 years? I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.
VICTORIA— BC Budget 2017 is big on talk of putting money back in people’s pockets, but when it comes to BC students and their families, it’s short on action, say the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators (FPSE) and BC Federation of Students (BCFS).
"Every year since 2001, students have been paying more for their education while educators make do with less and BC’s colleges and universities struggle to fulfill their mandates,” says George Davison, FPSE President. “After 15 years of taking money out of British Columbians’ pockets, today’s announcements are still failing students, educators, and their families.”
With a budgeted increase of 1%, operating grants for universities and colleges continue to be effectively stagnant in this year’s budget, meaning students and their families will be left footing more of the bill next year. While the budget does outline funding for capital investments, investment in teaching is ignored.
“Government needs to do more for BC’s colleges and universities than build shiny new buildings,” says George Davison, FPSE President. “While we appreciate the investment in infrastructure, particularly in maintenance and repair, this cash infusion doesn’t do anything to address the past 15 years of declining operational funding or the growing unaffordability faced by students.”
The budget provides little relief for students, but it does announce a reduction of interest rates charged on student loans. This reduction moves BC from the province charging the highest rate of interest to closer to the average. Currently interest on student loans ranges from prime plus 2.5% to prime plus 5%; effective August 2017, interest will be limited to prime.
“Students are pleased that the government has taken a step towards mitigating student debt,” says Jenelle Davies, Secretary-Treasurer of the BCFS. “This announcement will not only help current and future students, but also those who have graduated or left their studies and are already struggling to make loan payments.”
In terms of a financial assistance model, this announcement falls short of what students had hoped for. BC offers the lowest amount of non-repayable financial assistance of any province in Canada, and a comprehensive needs-based student grant program is a high priority for students and their families. Both federations are advocating for a reduction in the overall amount of student debt, which will go a long way to making post-secondary a real choice for low- and middle-income families.
The BC Federation of Students is composed of post-secondary students from 14 universities and colleges in every region in BC. The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for 10,000 faculty and staff in teaching universities, colleges, and institutes across BC.
For more information, please contact:
Jenelle Davies, Secretary-Treasurer, BCFS (604) 341-6850
George Davison, President, FPSE (604) 839-2487
Join instructors Leo McGrady and Jamie Baugh from McGrady & Company on February 4 for a Charter Rights in the Workplace workshop, offered by the Vancouver & District Labour Council.
Doug McNicol Charter Rights Workshop
In recent years, the Supreme Court of Canada and some lower courts have confirmed important rights for Canadian unions and their members. Decisions regarding Bill 29 in the health care sector, the Harper government back-to-work order against postal workers, and the recent BC Teachers’ Federation win over the right to negotiate class size and composition all combine to establish that Charter rights, such as freedom of association, include the right to free collective bargaining and due process. The implications of these decisions by our top judiciary reach into every workplace - both public and private sector. This course provides an overview of the Charter Rights, the key decisions for unions, and how these cases can be used to advance our collective interests.
Date: Saturday, February 4
Time: 9:30 am to 4:00 pm
Registration: $100 VDLC affiliated union / $120 other (fee includes lunch & materials )
Instructors: Leo McGrady & Jamie Baugh, McGrady & Co.
Leo McGrady, QC of McGrady and Company specializes in labour law, human rights, class actions, intellectual property, and libel law, all on behalf of unions and employees. He has argued cases at all levels of court in British Columbia and the Territories, and served as counsel on a number of leading labour and charter cases in the Supreme Court of Canada.
James Baugh is Senior Counsel at McGrady & Company. His areas of practice include labour and employment law, human rights, defamation and civil litigation. Mr. Baugh has taught courses in labour law and human rights, and has made presentations on employment related topics at a variety of conferences and workshops. He was called to the bar in 1988.
If you’re like me, you probably saw a lot of social media posts, commentary, and memes floating around the internet talking about how terrible a year 2016 was. They don’t need to be repeated, but I want to take a look at some of the good things that happened here at FPSE in 2016 and look ahead to the coming year.
We had record participation at our Spring Leadership Conference last February, where FPSE members and activists gathered to hear a compelling keynote by Brock University’s Labour Studies expert Dr. Larry Savage on the importance of strengthening faculty unions. This talk was supplemented by a series of skill-development workshops.
Our Annual General Meeting and Convention in May refocused members’ commitment to our Open the Doors campaign. We also highlighted the need to organize and to address the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Campaign.
Alongside the ongoing work of providing labour relations and advocacy support to all our member locals, Open the Doors was our primary strategic initiative in 2016 and remains so in 2017. Last fall, we collected over 10,000 Education Pledges from British Columbians who share our passion for the power of post-secondary education. We boosted our social media following for both FPSE and Open the Doors. We held an Education Contest that saw over 300 post-secondary students submit their stories about what matters to them in their pursuit of higher learning. The contest was followed up with an overwhelmingly successful Gala event to award prizes to the contest winners.
We had information tables at the Harrison Hot Springs CLC Winter School campaign fair for four weeks last winter, as well as at the Surrey Fusion Fest in July, the BC Federation of Labour’s Labour Day event at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, and the Union of BC Municipalities’ conference in Victoria in September. We marched in the Vancouver Pride Parade as part of the BC Federation of Labour’s Multi-Union Pride entry. We supported two of our ETEA bargaining units on picket lines, and while one of those ended in severe disappointment, we’ve been able to provide ongoing labour relations support in the aftermath.
For FPSE, 2016 was a year of raising our profile for our members and the labour movement as a whole and a year of increasing public awareness of the funding crisis in post-secondary education and the need to invest in the public system. Just after Labour Day, we launched a 30 second TV ad that was seen over five million times on TV and over a million times online. We got a lot of media attention about issues that concern faculty, staff, and students!
We’re even more excited about 2017. I’m pleased to announce that FPSE has a new website! It’s clean and bright, it’s easier than ever to find what you’re looking for, and it’s finally mobile friendly! If you haven’t checked it out already, take a look around and let us know what you think!
Later this month, we have a Secondary Scales Conference, bringing together local presidents, chief negotiators, non-regular faculty members, and staff to work on strategies for addressing secondary scales in the next round of bargaining. February will bring together committee members and activists for our annual Spring Conference. And right through the spring, we’ll be ramping up our Open the Doors campaign activities as we lead into the May 9th provincial election. Talk to your local president about how to get involved in local campaign activities, and if you’re not doing so already, make sure you follow both FPSE and Open the Doors on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll be showcasing student and faculty stories on the FPSE Facebook page. Share your story with us too!
With only five months to go until the election, your involvement in our campaign is more important than ever. Let’s make 2017 the year that we get political parties and voters all talking about the importance of investing in post-secondary education. Just to remind us all of how much our work matters, I’m pleased to share this video with you. Pass it along to your friends, family and colleagues!