Looking Back, Moving Forward
It’s a new year: a good time to reflect both on the year past and on our goals for the year to come.
On the post-secondary front, 2015 was a year of ups and downs in BC. February saw a budget that failed to address the chronic underfunding in our public colleges and universities. This underfunding carried over to our bargaining tables. FPSE member Locals grappled with yet another government mandate that limited our ability to address some significant inequities, particularly for non-regular faculty members. We did achieve modest wage increases and some small gains in other areas. However, we were unable to address some fundamental issues as we once again sat across the table from a government that is uninterested in meaningful dialogue in negotiations.
The underfunding of the system is also reflected in post-secondary developmental programs. During the spring sitting of the Legislature, FPSE members attended a debate in the Legislature, with the hopes that the government would restore tuition-free Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs. At the same time, we repeated our calls for government – federal and provincial – to restore funding to English as an Additional Language (EAL) programs for domestic students.
In the fall, FPSE again participated in the public hearings to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, taking that opportunity to emphasize the importance of ABE and EAL programs and the student debt crisis resulting from chronic underfunding.
Later in the fall, our Federation ran a bold campaign to engage voters in the federal election, highlighting areas of particular concern to us as educators. Days after the election, the Prime Minister-elect attended a council meeting of the Canadian Labour Congress, the first time in history a Prime Minister has done so. That, along with a commitment not to enact Bill C-377, bodes well for an improved relationship between the labour movement and the federal government. Within weeks of the election, we sent a letter to the new Minister of Immigration about his government’s commitment to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada and the need to restore funding to EAL programs at post-secondary institutions.
Today, we are just a few weeks away from a Throne Speech and provincial budget. We are pleased that the Select Standing Committee once again included in its recommendations several of the items we brought to their attention, including restoring tuition free ABE and EAL. It isn’t the first time they’ve supported our recommendations. Sadly, the government has yet to act on them. We’ve also met twice in two months with senior officials from the Ministry of Advanced Education, raising our concerns on policy direction. It remains to be seen whether our efforts over the past year will yield results in February’s budget.
Regardless of government’s action (or inaction), we will keep talking about the challenges we face in our sector. Through our Open the Doors campaign, we’re asking people to pledge their support for a robust, accessible, fully-funded post-secondary system. We’re collecting stories from educators, staff, students, and families, to share information about how much education matters to all of us. If you have a story to tell, we want to hear from you!
If we work together, talking to politicians, working with Ministry staff, sharing our stories, we can achieve the results we want and achieve an affordable, accessible, quality post-secondary system that benefits all British Columbians.
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.