Hundreds of BC private post-secondary workers are among those included in Statistics Canada’s unemployment numbers released Thursday, April 9. Already, some private post-secondary institutions have said that they can no longer operate given the significant decline of international students attributed to COVID-19. Inlingua Vancouver, whose employees are unionized, will be closed effective May 29, 2020.
In response, FPSE Local 21 (Education and Training Employees’ Association – ETEA) and FPSE President Terri Van Steinburg are supporting these workers during this difficult time.
FPSE Local 21 – ETEA immediately met with private sector employers to ensure workers’ rights were protected. At every ETEA worksite, the union either achieved commitment from the employer to follow the collective agreement, or a variance was negotiated as a Letter of Understanding. The union has held regular meetings to keep members informed of developments.
FPSE has provided labour relations support and advice to ETEA and all FPSE locals as they engage employers in COVID-19 emergency work adjustments.
FPSE is calling on the federal government to protect workers now and in the future during this disruption to the private post-secondary sector.
The recommendations from FPSE to the federal government regarding support for unionized post-secondary institutions, are:
1. Prioritize funding and support for private post-secondary institutions with unionized instructors, as this is the most efficient metric by which to measure fair and equitable treatment of instructors and students.
2. Establish a federal tri-partite committee to determine sector-wide practices regarding international education with compliance with collective agreements mandated at the outset.
FPSE President, Terri Van Steinburg:
FPSE is working with our private sector union, ETEA, to do everything we can to protect these workers and the rights they have won over the past decades. This is an extraordinarily difficult situation, but I credit ETEA leadership and members for taking immediate action when the crisis hit. ETEA is working to ensure teachers are being treated fairly.
“I, like other leaders, am looking at what these short term indicators can mean for this sector in the future. Workers fought for decades to unionize, and then achieve higher wages and benefits. It does not bode well for workers or students if these gains are lost when this crisis comes to an end. I’m calling on the federal government to take action now to prevent this worst-case outcome later.”
FPSE Local 21 - ETEA President, Kevin Drager:
“This will likely be the toughest challenge to have hit private post-secondary institutions and educators since they’ve been in operation. The reality is that most of my coworkers are losing their jobs, including myself – and I know this is true for many people these days. Global events like this affect all of us, whether we’re unionized or not. That being said, in tough times it is especially helpful to have someone on your side. I’m proud that ETEA is 100% committed to looking out for workers the same way workers look out for their students.
Unionization ensures that employers must consult with our teachers when determining how to respond in a crisis like this. Employers and unions were able to quickly reach a fair agreement about how to respond to the crisis in a way that respects workers’ rights. Educators were paid for their time when they moved classes online. The layoff process means that when and if people are re-hired it will be at the same pay rate. None of that is true for non-unionized workers, so they’ll be hurt now and potentially suffer again in the future. That’s why we support FPSE’s private post-secondary system recommendations to the federal government.”
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.