Presidents' Report to 2005 AGM
Because it was a bargaining year and because of the provincial election, most of our resources were devoted to provincial and local bargaining and political action, as well as our ongoing mission to support local associations in their work.
The President's Report normally looks at only the past year's activities. This report begins with a review of the past year, but I have also included a look back at our organization in honour of our 25 years as CIEA/FPSE and, before that, the College Faculties Federation. I hope that members will find the brief history interesting and informative.
This round of bargaining was particularly difficult. The context within which we conducted our negotiations included a public sector compensation mandate of zero per cent and a government that willingly imposes contracts, legislates an end to labour disputes, and attempts to use essential services designations to block job action. Our employers were particularly aggressive, with many putting concessions on local tables and making the bargaining process itself very cumbersome.
Of the collective agreements in the public sector that have been completed in the past two years of the New Era (not all were negotiated; many were imposed), none broke the zero per cent government mandate. At the time of this report going to print, some local bargaining continues and so we have not yet truly reached the end of this round. To date, however, in addition to blocking the concessions tabled by employers, we managed to make some gains in a number of areas. We established protection for members involved in international education programs out of the country. We achieved clarity and protection for members teaching in on-line and distributed learning formats. We improved funding for professional development. We have improved language around parental leave and new provisions for compassionate care leave. We achieved some benefit improvements including employer-paid eye exams and new partial sick leave and disability benefits.
In the 2001 round of bargaining we achieved a settlement that substantially improved our competitiveness with other jurisdictions in terms of compensation. In this round, we made very limited gains in this area. We are disappointed, but not surprised, that government has been shortsighted in not addressing the serious recruitment and retention challenges our system faces.
At the 2004 AGM, members voted to allocate funds from our Defence fund to support a publicity campaign to promote awareness of public post-secondary education issues in British Columbia, prior to May 2005 provincial election.
We worked quickly, having no time to waste, and at its June 2004 retreat, FPSE President's Council endorsed a political action plan.
The campaign had three major elements:* Local capacity building would entail working with locals to develop advocacy skills, including offering or sponsoring media and campaign planning workshops and a matching fund for local events and advocacy
* Voter registration - a partnership campaign with Rock the Vote and the Canadian Federation of Students as well as other partners
* A provincial communications campaign in concert with a full service agency with a demonstrated capacity to execute and deliver a comprehensive campaign, including message development, creative work, production of quality media advertising and media-buying capacity
An important part of implementing the campaign was to add some additional communications support at the staff level and we were very pleased to have Jo Dunaway join us in that capacity this year.
We did our initial research, which included focus groups, and heard from members and the public that affordability and access for students were the key issue. We were not surprised at the level of agreement on the issues and we proceeded to build a campaign that would raise the issues of funding, affordability and access. We also consistently raised privatization, trades training, and the reduced support services in developmental education programs given their importance to our system and our members.
Locals, engaged in a bargaining year that started early and continued well into the spring, were less involved in the capacity building portion of the campaign than anticipated. Because the campaign had a number of elements, resources were redeployed into other areas.
Our partnership with Rock the Vote BC was very successful. In addition to providing financial and other support, FPSE sponsored a video and spoken word contest. That campaign assisted more than 10,000 young people to register and directed many more to Elections BC.
FPSE members in most communities will have seen or heard some elements of the advertising campaign. The bulk of campaign money was spent on a multi-media advertising campaign that included bathroom ads, wild postings, transit shelters, newspapers, billboards and radio. We have had excellent feedback from members and the public. As you will see from the brief history of our federation that accompanies this report, the campaign is a continuation of a long tradition of political action in this organization.
At the time of writing this report, we do not know the outcome of the election. We know, however, that regardless of which party is elected to govern, we will continue to advocate on behalf of our members and our students and hold political parties accountable for the promises they make.
A large part of the time spent by FPSE staff and those who have time release at locals is devoted to providing much needed services assistance in the area of grievances and arbitrations. Several legal opinions were sought on a variety of issues, and labour relations staff representatives were called upon to share their expertise with local stewards.
While the joint work of staff and local stewards usually brings grievances to resolution, FPSE supported a number of arbitrations and received a number of arbitration awards this year. We were successful in getting a terminated member reinstated, in a policy grievance involving release time for department chairs, and in defending a previous arbitration award that the employer appealed. We are currently advancing to arbitration a number of cases. Several involve discipline or termination of members, while others are policy grievances over such matters as arbitrary actions by an employer, the union's rights in appointment of department heads, the refusal of an employer to recall a member after maternity leaves, and the refusal of an employer to extend the recall period for a sick employee.
A January 2005 decision of the BC Supreme Court was also a significant victory for faculty at VCC and all post-secondary educators in the province.
In April 2002, the Board and administration of Vancouver Community College made a decision to change the length of term in the largest department, English Language Skills (ELS), without consulting with the VCC Education Council.
The VCC Faculty Association, with the backing of FPSE, took Vancouver Community College to court in order to reaffirm the role of the Education Council in the development of education policy. The decision confirmed the advisory role for education councils and is a major victory for shared governance.
Pensions and Retirement
This year saw the establishment of a post secondary branch of the BC Retired Teachers' association and I joined retired members at the first informal meeting of the branch in April. As many of us will be retirees within the next decade, it is important that our locals publicize the importance of joining the BCRTA. Much thanks goes to Sam Lewindon, a retired member from Local 15, for his tireless work to bring this branch into existence.
The actuarial valuation of the College Pension Plan as of August 2003 was completed this past year and our plan had a small unfunded liability. As a result, members saw our pension contributions increase in September 2004. We continue to have one of the best pension benefits within BC and inflation protection, although not a guaranteed benefit, is in good shape into the future. Our plan is well managed by the College Pension Board of Trustees and I want to acknowledge the hard work of the four trustees that FPSE appoints to sit on the board: Dennis Anderson (retired), Roseanne Moran (Staff Representative), Dominique Roelants (Local 8) and John Wilson (Local 1) continue to do excellent work as trustees and with FPSE members. The College Pension Plan continues to deal with cost pressures in the area of health benefits and we will no doubt be looking at options for managing costs in the coming year.
Following up on the direction given at our 2004 Annual General Meeting, FPSE has asked the College Pension Board of Trustees to look into developing a socially responsible pooled investment fund. We have also established a sub-committee of Presidents' Council to do further work on recommended investment policies for our pension funds.
Bringing members together
Our communications capacity took another step forward this year with an overhaul of our website. Feedback has been positive on the range of new information and resources and the new user-friendly search capacity that is built into the site. In addition to our newsmagazine Profile we continued to build our email list, and regularly sent out timely news on issues of importance.
The past year featured another round of committee meetings where members come together to discuss common issues, undertake research and make recommendations to Presidents' Council. I thank the hundreds of members who contribute their time and energy to this often unrecognized, but crucially important part of the work that we do. This year we also sponsored a Developmental Education conference that brought members together to discuss common issues and strategies for defending these vulnerable program areas.
Our spring conference this year Meeting Challenges; Building Skills was well received. We started the day with the CBC Political Panel, moderated by Erica Johnson, of the CBC television program Marketplace. Jim Turk, Executive Director of CAUT, gave an instructive presentation of academic freedom and faculty rights, making use of the groundbreaking Bryson arbitration at UBC. Committee members and others participated in a range of workshops and had an opportunity to finish some business in advance of this AGM.
And we got out to locals at every opportunity this year. CIEA Officers and staff traveled to your locals to attend meetings, do workshops, assist with campaigns, and bargain and defend agreements. I was able to visit many locals and as always I appreciate the opportunity to be with members on your home turf. Whenever possible I took the opportunity to talk with local media about issues of concern to post-secondary educators and I always enjoy the dialogue. To those whose locals I could not get to, my sincere apologies.
Working with allies
FPSE continues to work with and appreciate our allies. Our relationship with the Canadian Association of University Teachers continues to be invaluable in the fight to defend our members against offensive legislation and on many other fronts, and I acknowledge their support and work on our behalf. We were very pleased this year to have the faculty from the Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology join CAUT. CAAT faculty remain part of the Ontario Public Service Employees' Union. FPSE is an active member as well of the National Union of CAUT - an organization that is continuing to grow. Throughout this year, we have had representation at various events, conferences and meetings sponsored by CAUT and NUCAUT. FPSE is often asked by CAUT to provide panelists and speakers at their events, as we are considered to have negotiated the most progressive contract language in many areas including regularization, maternity leave and top up provisions, and salary structures.
FPSE representatives participated in various CLC conferences and training events such as the Pride conference, the Pension conference, Contract Academic Staff conference, Bargaining Trends conference, Senior Grievance Officers' conference and the annual Winter School. The CLC is currently working on campaigns for universal child care, pension reform, accessible public health care, improved employment insurance and education and training programs. FPSE Representatives will be attending the CLC convention in June 2005 in Montreal where the NUCAUT convention will also be held. A number of resolutions were submitted from our federation that include affordability of developmental education for students; apprenticeship and industry training; literacy; and federal funding for post secondary education.
FPSE continues to support the BC Federation of Labour's activities to raise the profile of labour issues and to fight for fairness. As a full officer/Vice President of the BCFL, I have represented our federation's interests in helping to develop the BCFL's Political Action campaign, Count Me In, which unfolded in stages across the province leading up to the provincial election. Polling was conducted, local organizers were hired, and members were mobilized. The campaign involved every community around the province, and many FPSE members helped to raise our issues with candidates and in the overall election campaign. I want to thank those who got involved in the election campaign through Count Me In, because we know that if candidates understand our issues, we are more likely to have a government that respects and responds to community needs.
As an officer of the BCFL, I chair the Federation's Education Committee. At the BCFL Convention in November 2004, I presented a new education policy to better reflect the many issues facing public education today. As well, I presented a new policy statement on apprenticeship and trades training. Both policies passed at convention.
FPSE co-sponsored, with BCTF, BCFL and CUPE BC, the public education conference Public Education not for Sale 2. It was well-attended with delegates from across the province.
FPSE continues to work through the Coalition for Public Education, which includes the BC Teachers' Federation, the BCGEU, CUPE BC, the Canadian Federation of Students, and the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC. This year, we supported an access issues campaign, Opening Doors for Every Student, which tied in very well with the BCFL campaign and our own political action campaign. Awareness raising activities targeted parent advisory groups, school and post-secondary institution boards, labour councils and others in focusing on the need for greater educational opportunities in our communities.
As I write this report I reflect that we have rarely lived in such turbulent political times. We have a provincial election upon us - the outcome of which is unknown. We also have a federal political environment in which a minority government is balancing a range of interests in order to gain some stability. We could see another federal election very soon.
FPSE and NUCAUT representatives participated in national lobbies through our allied organizations - the CLC and the CAUT this year. The recent pact between federal Liberals and the NDP included some additional resources for post-secondary education and I believe that we can give ourselves some credit for helping to frame that agenda.
At the provincial level, it has been another busy year.
FPSE made a written submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, calling for improved funding and access. Several FPSE locals also made presentations to hearings in their communities. Over the past year I took the opportunity to forward our agenda with BC government representatives. I met with the new Minister of Advanced Education, Ida Chong, as well as having a number of meetings with the Deputy Minister and other officials in the Ministry of Advanced Education. I also had a good deal of contact with the Deputy Minister of Labour and others throughout bargaining.
In advance of the election I also met with the leader of the opposition, Carol James, to discuss FPSE members' priorities with her.
The BC Liberal government remained steadfast in its policy direction and implementation during the year. Minister of Advanced Education Shirley Bond appointed an 18 member Minister's Advisory Council, with no representation from college or university college educators or any representation from faculty organizations. The council does, however, include a representative of the private training sector organization, the BC Career Colleges Association.
The fall saw the beginning of government's expensive "fee-good" advertising campaign. Post-secondary education featured prominently in government ads, and later in Liberal Party election ads.
We saw more development on Thompson Rivers University which began operations under its new name in April 2005 and developments in the establishment of UBC Okanagan and Okanagan Colleges.
The BC Cabinet approved details of the establishment of the Private Career Training Agency (PCTA) and changes to the regulatory regime effective November 2004. New regulations have already resulted in many institutions operating without registering with the PCTA, including many institutions offering English language instruction. The number of registered private training institutions in BC dropped from its pre-regulatory reform level of approximately 1100 to about 600 as of April 2005.
In November Premier Campbell named a Premier's Advisory Panel on Literacy, containing no faculty or teacher representatives. We also saw a Premier's Literacy Summit to which no organizations representing faculty, staff and students in public institutions were invited.
Government approved the first wave of new private degree programs at Sprott Shaw Community College, University Canada West and Columbia Colleges. This is the first announcement of government action related to the passage of the Degree Authorization Act in April 2002 and the establishment of the controversial Degree Quality Assessment Board in May 2003.
The February budget offers a three-year plan where funding per student will decline from $8659 to $8629 for the whole post-secondary education system. Funds for industry training remain frozen for the three years of the plan and student aid funding remains essentially frozen for the 2005-06 year. While the Campbell government announced its intention to legislate tuition increases linked to inflation, no legislation has yet been tabled and institutional budgets do not reflect the proposed new policy direction.
In the lead-up to the election, we saw a flurry of capital announcements. Locals are rightly concerned about the required financial contribution from institutions in the current capital plan.
FPSE is a federation that functions on democratic decision-making. It is with the greatest pride that I have had the honour of leading this organization. But, as in all democracies, the work is shared, and I have many to thank.
FPSE is well-served by a dedicated staff of professionals who always look to serve members' needs. I have truly enjoyed working with such a dedicated group and I wish to acknowledge the contributions they all have made in a variety of capacities. The Staff Representatives who work on the labour relations front, Barb Brown, Jeff McKeil, David Piasta, Linda Sperling, Lee Whyte, and our new employee, Weldon Cowan, who truly discovered the meaning of hitting the ground running, are unparalleled in their ability to serve the locals, and Staff Representative Roseanne Moran, who is responsible for communications, policy and pensions, is dedicated to keeping our members informed and current on all of our issues. FPSE would not be as effective without all of our staff and we are all indebted to them for their talent, commitment and energy.
I want to extend a very special thank you to Staff Representative Linda Sperling who has retired; I want to publicly recognize her hard work and contributions to FPSE over the past 13 years. As well, I want to recognize Jeff McKeil who had to step in at the provincial bargaining table for David Piasta when he became ill. The notice was short and the time was crucial, and I think he did an incredible job of carrying bargaining forward to its conclusion and beyond. Finally, I want to recognize the work of Staff Representative Roseanne Moran, who worked closely with Presidents' Council to develop and implement each stage of our very successful political action campaign. She took on extra work in addition to her other assigned duties and managed to meet production deadlines and to provide me with the support necessary to carry our message to the media at every opportunity.
The Administrative Assistants, Mary Bruegeman, Angela Kenyon, Carrie Smith, Margaret Sutherland and Nancy Yip, provide quality work and service to all, more often than not under tight timelines. Our Financial Assistant, Mark Gloumeau, keeps our financial affairs in top shape. To all, I owe my gratitude.
Presidents' Council works tirelessly to keep the organization current and effective between AGMs. I want to thank all members of the Council, listed at the end of this report, for their dedication and support.
This year's Executive Committee contributed in so many ways by ably representing FPSE at external organizations and functions and by providing advice and help to me on many occasions. My thanks go out to Vice Presidents George Davison and Nancy Clegg, whose expert advice I have found invaluable, and to Members-at-Large Tom Friedman and Melanie Fahlman Reid, who have worked alongside of me all year. To our Secretary-Treasurer Dileep Athaide I owe my sincere gratitude. Dileep's insight, dedication and diligence have been a cornerstone in our leadership of FPSE.
Thank you to all who have worked on behalf of our organization. It is by this hard work that we promote and move forward our agenda for post-secondary education in BC.
Respectfully submitted and in solidarity,
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.