April 24, 2017
I have had the distinct pleasure of serving as TRUFA president over the past year, and working with a group of committed, skilled representatives on the TRUFA Executive and TRUFA standing committees. I’d like to highlight some key issues with which TRUFA has been involved over the past year. And I want to assure all members that, despite ongoing challenges, TRUFA has been consistently fulfilling its mandate under the Labour Code and under our own Constitution and By-laws in its fair and robust representation for all TRU faculty.
With the leadership of TRUFA’s Communications Officer, Jack Massalski, and Communications Assistant, Martha Solomon, we have done an improved job in communicating regularly with all members. Our monthly Newsletters have been posted on the trufa.ca website and sent to faculty inboxes through TRUFA-L each month. The website has been updated and redesigned for easier access and navigation. TRUFA’s social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter contain regular updates on issues and promotion of TRUFA-sponsored events. New features on our website—including “Ask TRUFA”—have been initiated this year, and faculty can access a full archive of articles and videos.
The difficulty of effective communication with TRUFA representatives in Williams Lake and the size of the TRUFA Executive has led to Executive meetings being held outside of House #1, particularly in venues equipped with ITV capabilities. TRUFA stewards meet in House #1 and, with their encouragement, we have initiated some renovations of the House #1 internet services, including hard-wiring the main floor meeting space, and boosting the Wi-Fi capacity, so that Skype participation can come with clear sound and picture.
TRUFA Vice President Star Mahara has been instrumental in engaging faculty on governance issues. Her video series “Focus on Governance”—with its description of general governance bodies and procedures at TRU, the workings of Faculty Councils and departments—have assisted TRUFA members in recognizing the key role of faculty in the shared governance of our university.
Star has also represented TRUFA on the Faculty Council Chairs’ Working Group, at which the nine FC chairs work collaboratively to discuss procedures, terms of reference and other governance issues.
At the 2015 FPSE AGM, our provincial federation embarked on an ambitious campaign—“Open the Doors”—to highlight post-secondary education issues, specifically funding, access and affordability, in anticipation of the May 9, 2017 provincial election. One year later, at the 2016 FPSE AGM, delegates supported an expansion of the campaign with an allocation of an additional $2 million to engage in advertising and public advocacy directed at students, their parents, our communities and political candidates.
Throughout this past year, the TRUFA communications committee has participated in campus outreach promoting the goals of the Open the Doors campaign. We have held a number of information tables, asking students, staff and faculty to sign pledge cards supporting accessible, affordable university education. Before the legislature adjourned in March for the election campaign, FPSE presented 18,000 pledge cards to the clerk of the legislature, nearly 3000 of which came from TRU. TRUFA adopted what we have called the “cupcake strategy,” providing students with cupcakes, gift card draws and other incentives to educate them about these issues.
Leading up to the dropping of the writ on April 11th, TRUFA has been advertising in print and on the radio, billboards, media websites and social media on why voters should support candidates who are committed to appropriate funding for TRU and to addressing access and affordability issues for students.
On April 13th, we held our final Open the Doors event, providing students with a “Report Card” of how well the outgoing government performed in terms of post-secondary issues, and encouraging them to vote, giving them specific information about how they can register and where they can vote.
Following the non-confidence vote in senior TRU administration, TRUFA has continued to engage administrators and push for changes to administrative approaches to the inclusion of faculty in institutional strategic planning and university decision-making. Despite an in-person submission to the TRU Board of Governors by Star and me, in which we reiterated the need for faculty to be recognized as full partners in the governance of the institution and called on administration to engage in real, substantive consultation, this past year has witnessed a disturbing trend. I have only to mention Infosilem, on-line course evaluations, Green Leaf High School, parking and House of Learning to remind faculty that administrators have not consistently been willing to request faculty input and make decisions that meet the needs of students and faculty. I can report that at the monthly consultative committee meetings between senior administrators and TRUFA, there is a respectful exchange of views. However, administrators often indicate that certain issues are not meant to be raised by TRUFA, that the Association should restrict its activities to contract negotiation and administration. In response, we indicate that TRUFA is the collective voice of all faculty, and that faculty expect the Association to represent their interests beyond the technicalities of the Collective Agreement.
With the leadership of the TRUFA stewards’ committee, and co-Chief Stewards Mike Looney and Krista Lussier, TRUFA has done an excellent job in defending our members’ rights. In cases of both direct Collective Agreement violation, and investigations of other faculty concerns, the stewards’ committee has had a lot of success in reaching resolutions with administration to the benefit of members. Unlike some administrative consultative failures in some major TRU initiatives, stewards and Human Resources and Provost office administrators have been able to work most effectively over the past several months in resolving a large back-log of grievances, and have found solutions to other problems that may not have led to grievances. New stewards are being fully oriented to their duties, and the increase in the stewards’ training budget for this upcoming year will ensure that stewards can continue to be successful.
Two years ago, when the membership approved a new structure of the TRUFA Executive in our Constitution and By-laws, the intent was to have representatives elected by and accountable to constituent groups, including the nine TRU Faculties and Schools, Williams Lake faculty, and contract faculty. Rather than these representatives being elected at large, it was felt that they would be able to represent the specific interests of their constituent group while acting in the best interests of all members. I had hoped that Faculty/School reps would be able to act as conduits for information coming from their academic units to TRUFA and disseminating TRUFA information to their constituents. We are still very much in the early stages of dealing with this new structure—more evidence may be necessary for a complete assessment—but I would like to continue to encourage a more effective representation and communication function by these Executive members.
One of the consistent challenges when it comes to these issues is how TRUFA can best represent contract faculty. We increased the dedicated Executive positions for contract faculty from one to two in the last round of revisions to our By-laws, and we allocated resources to allow for the reps to be able to communicate with their constituents, many of whom are not on campus more than 1 or 2 days per week, and some of whom work only one semester out of the year. Again, this coming year I will be working with the elected contract faculty reps to see how Limited Term, Continuing Sessional and Sessional members can best be served.
Through FPSE, TRUFA belongs to CAUT, and the TRUFA President attends two CAUT Council meetings and one Western Regional meeting per year. CAUT is the primary national lobby group on university issues, and I participated in a Parliament Hill Lobby in November, in which I spoke to MPs Cathy McLeod (Kamloops), Finn Donnelly (New Westminster) and Rachel Blaney (Vancouver Island) on funding for aboriginal students, CAUT’s proposed Post-Secondary Education Act (in which, like the Canada Health Act, would see transfers from the federal government to the provinces actually be used for supporting post-secondary education and would be accompanied by accountability measures, and the restoration of funding for federal tri-council agencies (SSHRC, NSERC and CIHR) During this past year’s Western Regional meeting in Winnipeg, I participated in a rally in support of then striking University of Manitoba faculty members.
As approved at the 2016 TRUFA AGM, I have initiated a new closer relationship with the faculty associations’ group representing the five other BC research universities – UBC, SFU, UVic, UNBC and Royal Roads. In March, Star Mahara and I attended a CUFA-BC organized governance conference in Vancouver, at which both faculty and administrators spoke about the crisis in university governance across the country. In the coming year, I will be attending the twice-yearly CUFA-BC Council meetings in Vancouver and continuing to communicate closely with CUFA-BC Executive Director Michael Connelly and CUFA-BC President Jim Johnson (UBC-Okanagan).
John Turner and I attended the annual BC Federation of Labour convention in Vancouver last November. The FPSE delegation consisted of some 43 delegates from the 18 local faculty associations in our Federation. Many issues that affect TRU faculty members are regularly addressed by the Fed, including precarious work, pensions, occupational health and safety, and labour rights.
For the past 15 years, TRUFA has been affiliated with our local Canadian Labour Congress Labour Councils, one in Kamloops and one in Prince George, serving members in Williams Lake. Our current delegates are Cindy Ross Friedman, Terryl Atkins and myself. We attend monthly meetings and the Council is an important venue for union solidarity and for discussion of key labour issues.
In order to belong to the Canadian Labour Congress, the unionized faculty associations belonging to CAUT formed NUCAUT in 2002. FPSE with its 10,000 members is the largest single group in NUCAUT and, as such, has played a major leadership role in this national union. The sixth triennial NUCAUT convention will be held in Toronto in May immediately before the Canadian Labour Congress convention. Current FPSE secretary-treasurer, Terri Van Steinburg (Kwantlen), will be running for the NUCAUT presidency replacing George Davison who has served two three-year terms in that role.
Every three years, the largest national labour organization in Canada meets in convention. Like the BC Federation of Labour does on the provincial stage, the CLC advocates for both unionized and non-unionized workers. Over the last couple of years, the CLC has been lobbying for progressive changes to the Canada Pension Plan, a national childcare plan, and a Health Accord with the provinces that would continue adequate transfers for health services. FPSE, through its membership in NUCAUT, is sending 17 delegates to the May 8th– 12th convention in Toronto.
TRUFA’s membership in FPSE has provided countless benefits for the union and, by extension, for all of our members. Our FPSE staff representative, Weldon Cowan, is an endless source of key information that helps TRUFA decision-making; he provides advice on every aspect of our work. As one of FPSE’s appointed trustees on the College Pension Plan Board of Trustees, Weldon also can offer advice on retirement and other pension-related issues. FPSE’s standing committees continue to advocate on behalf of all British Columbia faculty in areas such as Professional and Scholarly Activity, Human Rights, Non-Regular (Contract) Faculty, Occupational Health and Safety, Disability Management, and Status of Women. TRUFA’s representatives on these standing committees have done an excellent job of representing our members’ interests. Additionally, TRUFA’s VP Stewards, VP Salary and Working Conditions, and President sit on three key FPSE committees: Contract Administration and Review (CARC), Bargaining Coordination (BCC), and Presidents’ Council (PC). FPSE dues represent the largest expenditure in the TRUFA budget. A number of years ago, I was asked to sit on an FPSE Membership Review Committee, which concluded that the training, advice, lobbying activities and legal/arbitration support offered to TRUFA by FPSE membership is invaluable. I would like to reconfirm that conclusion.
Serving as TRUFA President has given me a great deal of admiration for the work of all of your elected TRUFA representatives. I want to single out a few, with whom I have worked most closely and have benefited from their advice and their support: John Turner (former Chief Bargainer and Chief Steward), Star Mahara (Vice President), Lloyd Bennett (VP, SWCC), and Mike Looney and Krista Lussier (Co-Chief Stewards).
I also want to acknowledge this year’s TRUFA award winners, individuals who have gone above and beyond expectations to represent and support all TRU faculty:
TRUFA Distinguished Service Award: Barbara Bearman
TRUFA Academic Governance Award: Kathy Lauriente and Paul Simpson
TRUFA Chair Leadership Award: Shawn Read
Finally, I want to once again thank the woman who day in and day out epitomizes distinguished service on behalf of TRUFA and all TRU faculty—Marian Griffin who has completed 26 years of outstanding service for our Association. Thank you, Marian, for all you do. It has been a continuing pleasure to work with you.
Submitted in solidarity,
Tom Friedman, TRUFA President