International Women’s Day 2013
On March 8, we mark International Women's Day. It's a moment of both reflection and solidarity. Yes, what women have been able to achieve in terms of equality needs to be celebrated, but not as a static point. Truthfully, it’s simply one step on a long march to real equality.
It's also important to remember that the gains that women have made in areas of real equality and real security were the result of enormous struggle, often over many decades. Those gains were achieved at bargaining tables, through legislative change and dedicated political action on the part of millions of women, not just in Canada, but around the world.
Our Federation has been part of that struggle and has contributed to those gains. We have negotiated regularization language in our collective agreements to combat the systemic barriers that are all too common in many post-secondary institutions across Canada, barriers that have prevented women from equal and secure access to full time teaching positions. We have also ensured that our provincial salary scale is based on years of teaching, not subjective (and often gender biased) measures like merit or department. We have also negotiated substantial improvements in our benefit plans that protect a woman's income during maternity leave. We have also made sure that women in our sector have an opportunity to enhance their retirement income by negotiating provisions to buy back pensionable years of service.
Unfortunately, women in Canada still face some major struggles. For example, our federal government, under Stephen Harper, continues to attack critical parts of Canada’s social infrastructure, an infrastructure that supports equality for all, especially women. The Conservatives have also attacked the right of unions to freely bargain with their employers, a move that threatens the capacity of women to secure real progress when it comes to issues like pay equity. Under the guise of austerity, the federal Conservatives have also cut billions in funding for critical programs, programs that were advanced decades ago as part of an equality agenda that helped raise minimum standards of employment and income security for every Canadian. As we have done in the past, women will play a critical role in mobilizing their community to fight back against these regressive measures.
So this March 8, I will be joining women in my community not just to remember what we have gained, but to mobilize and build on that success, to make sure our voices are heard, to join with others and to organize for the equality we all deserve.
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.