Across the country, on September 4th we will celebrate Labour Day and the living history of unions across BC and Canada. From the print workers who organized for a reasonable workday almost 150 years ago, to public service workers who defied the government of the day and went on strike for collective bargaining rights, to all the union members and activists working today to improve the health and safety of our working conditions and ensure an inclusive and welcoming workplace for all, Labour Day is a testament to the power of collective organizing.
By working together in solidarity, workers - and different unions - have won many hard-fought battles. Their successes have led to many of the benefits we enjoy today: a limited workday, paid overtime, weekends and paid vacation, and the right to safe and healthy work environments. In addition to fighting for workers’ rights at the bargaining table and on the picket line, labour organizations have also advocated for better policies for working people at all levels of government. By taking the concerns of members to those in elected office, organized labour has achieved many victories for those across our cities, province, and country.
Here at FPSE, we are grateful to everyone who joined and supported our campaigns in the lead-up to the provincial election to strengthen post-secondary education in BC, including the many unions who gave their support – thank you. We can be proud that together we voted for post-secondary education and for working people across the province. Already, we have seen that the new government has listened to our voice: just weeks after taking office they removed tuition from Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning, they’ve lowered the rate of interest in student loans to prime (on the way to eliminating interest on student loans altogether), and they’ve committed to raising the minimum wage. These are definitive actions in the early days of the new government that will make life more affordable for working people, and education more accessible for learners of all ages.
These changes, and the promise of a government that will continue to listen to the concerns of labour, mark the beginning of a new season in BC. We know firsthand the challenges our members, students, and families are facing in BC regarding the costs of post-secondary education, and we’re looking forward to working with the new government to begin finding solutions to the historic underfunding of the system. Just as this situation took years to develop, it will take time to fix but with our sustained efforts and a government with a demonstrated willingness to act, progress can be made.
This Labour Day, I look forward to honouring the legacy of the union activists who came before us with folks in the community and friends in labour at the Labour Day picnic at Holland Park in Surrey. I encourage you to also drop by a Labour Day event organized by your local Labour Council to celebrate with others in your community.
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.