COCAL IX Conference: building unity across many borders

“Contingent academic faculty across North America have a common goal: to build strength through a shared strategy of organizing and bargaining,” said Cindy Oliver, President of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators and one of the keynote presenters at this year’s International Conference of the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labour (COCAL).  The event was held last week in Quebec City and brought together faculty representatives from Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

“The real importance of this conference is that it provides a venue for organizers and activists within the post-secondary sector to share their experiences and strategies for changing the conditions facing contingent academic faculty in our institutions,” Oliver stressed.  “Often times we confine our activism and conferences like this one provide us with new insights as to how we can overcome some of the challenges we face negotiating better employment security for non-regular faculty members,” Oliver added.

“In our opening panel we talked about the experience that FPSE has had on two critical fronts: organizing new bargaining units and strengthening democratic governance in our public institutions.  On both fronts, FPSE has faced a number of challenges and is working to secure some important victories,” Oliver noted.

“Our organizing efforts in BC have been uphill struggles, but we have succeeded in organizing four new certifications over the last year and a half.  That’s moving our organization in the right direction.  We just have to push harder,” Oliver said.

“We have faced similar challenges in democratizing our system of institutional governance.  The provincial government has tried to tip the balance in favour of administrators when it comes to revamping the Senates at many of our new special purpose teaching universities.  We are mobilizing our members to ensure that those changes to not undermine the rights we have secured through many years of collective bargaining,” Oliver added.

“The benefit to our members who attended the COCAL event is that they come away with a much stronger sense of how important our collective bargaining and collective agreements are to achieving better outcomes for our non-regular members.  As well, the event helps us better target our organizing efforts to ensure that we achieve first agreements that make a real difference in the lives of contingent academic faculty in both the public and private institutions in our province,” Oliver concluded.

Cindy Oliver's full address can be found here.

About FPSE

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.