2012 Convention drafts Action Plan for critical year ahead

 

There is a lot at stake for post-secondary educators over the next 12 months and this year's convention has helped set the direction and priorities that will guide FPSE in the year ahead. Starting with a detailed discussion of the Federation's proposed Action Plan and working through workshop debates, the convention has set an aggressive plan to ensure that collective bargaining, public policy, pension plan improvements and measures to ensure greater member involvement and communication all feature prominently in the organization's work plan over the next twelve months.

The fact that Locals are moving ahead with plans for the 2012 round of provincial public sector contract negotiations made the issue of coordinated bargaining a high priority for many delegates. Key to that discussion, both in the proposed Action Plan and in debates on other resolutions on the floor of convention, was the call for not only strategic coordination within our Federation, but also equally strategic coordination between post-secondary education bargaining tables and those in other parts of the provincial public sector.

Much of that broader coordination across various parts of the provincial public sector is being championed by the BC Federation of Labour. In his remarks to the convention, Jim Sinclair, BC Federation of Labour President, thanked FPSE for the important contribution it has made to that broader coordination effort and to individual activists within our ranks who continue to speak out on the failed policies of the current provincial government.

The problems created by the provincial government's approach to post-secondary education was a critical theme of another keynote speaker at the convention, Adrian Dix, the provincial NDP's leader and the voice of the Official Opposition in Victoria. Since his election as the NDP leader in April 2011, Dix has demonstrated a keen understanding of the important role that post-secondary education can and must play in BC. He has made significant commitments to improve the affordability of post-secondary education, a commitment that has solidified his party's support with prospective voters. He also pledged to reverse the measures introduced by the current government when it tabled Bill 18, the Advanced Education Statutes Amendment Act, a bill that effectively bars our activists from standing for election as faculty-elected representatives in the Board of their local institution.

Based on current polling and on the long list of missteps that have plagued Premier Clark's government since she became the BC Liberal leader in February 2011, the prospect of electoral change in the BC Legislature has ramped up significantly in the last six months. A recent Angus Reid poll put support for the Opposition NDP under Dix at 50%, an unprecedented level of popular support. However, the prospect of electoral change did not deter delegates from making the case for continued activism and community outreach by post-secondary educators. Noting that political prospects can shift significantly between now and the May 2013 provincial election, the view from the convention floor was to not assume the public was onside with our issues and to continue to advance the case for changes in post-secondary education policy and funding.

The task now is to consolidate the work that delegates have targeted for the Federation. Over the coming months FPSE will work with Locals, our partners on the broader labour movement and our allies in the communities to ensure that the voice and priorities of post-secondary educators help shape the public debate about our sector and mobilize support for our goals in the 2012 round of bargaining. As many delegates stressed in the debate about our Action Plan, together, united we are just that much more effective.

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.