Celebrating Labour Day 2015
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.
For 121 years, Canadians have celebrated Labour Day. The world has changed a lot in those years, and unions have played a large part in making Canada a better place to live and work. No employer has ever given workers better working conditions, wages, and benefits without a struggle. When workers come together to work collectively toward a common goal, we make great gains, not just for ourselves, but for all Canadians.
That collective strength matters more today than it ever has. All the gains we’ve made in decades past are under threat of erosion by autocratic federal and provincial governments. Across the country, funding for social programs is being cut and women's, social justice, and environmental organizations are being de-funded and audited into submission. The right of unions to organize, bargain collectively, and defend ourselves from workplace rollbacks are under constant attack. Retirement security through pension plans, a hallmark of good union jobs, is also being threatened.
In British Columbia, the last 14 years have seen unprecedented provincial government attacks on unions. Faculty and staff unions in BC’s colleges and universities are no exception. From the core reviews and extraordinary contract-stripping legislation of 2002, to the now-annual ritual of cuts, students have suffered a loss of choice and access. Post-secondary educators are increasingly constrained in our ability to meet community needs. Meanwhile, tuition has soared, condemning many students to crippling debt and making post-secondary education inaccessible to those who need it most.
We fare no better under our federal government. Recent cuts from Ottawa have fundamentally altered the English as a Second Language and Adult Basic Education landscape in BC, driving huge tuition increases for programs that were made free in 2007. Scientists across the country are being muzzled as the federal government tries to silence the growing alarm around climate change. Canada’s capacity for research is falling behind after a decade of decreased investment. Academic freedom is at risk as the federal government uses the threat of terrorism as a weapon against free speech and dissent.
Working with our allies in the labour and student movements in BC and across the country, FPSE continues to fight back against the daunting federal and provincial forces arrayed against us. We will not cease in our efforts to bring funding for post-secondary education to levels that will allow students, educators, and communities to thrive. On Labour Day, we will celebrate our achievements as unions, workers, public servants, and educators.
Yet as we look towards the federal election on October 19, we must consider how much Canada and BC have changed in the last 20 years. As Tommy Douglas once pointed out, we mice shouldn't be surprised when we continue to elect either black cats or white cats. Maybe it's time to consider something different!
On Labour Day, please join in the celebration of our achievements and participate in your local District Labour Council activities. But more importantly, commit to get engaged in the political process, educate yourselves on the issues, and above all, get out and vote. Happy Labour Day!
BC Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger and
FPSE President George Davison at the 2015 Labour Day celebration.