Unity a constant theme at 2009 AGM

For the 156 delegates at this year’s AGM, the theme of unity worked its way into much of the debate that took place over the four days of our annual AGM.  Unity when it comes to bargaining in 2010.  Unity when it comes to working with allies in the community.  And unity when it comes to advancing the much needed reforms to our public post-secondary education system, a system that all agree is critical to shaping the future of our province, but a system that continues to struggle with chronic under-funding from both the provincial and federal governments.

Coming as it did on the heels of a provincial election, much of the debate on the first day of the AGM focused on what a third term BC Liberal government would look like.  During the opening session political panel, delegates had an opportunity to assess and question three presenters who offered new perspectives on the outcome of the election and some of the implications that it holds for post-secondary educators over the next four years.  The blunt message from that discussion was that we need to build strong alliances within the communities in which our institutions operate, and we need to mobilize those alliances in our efforts to secure more stable funding for those institutions.  Throughout all that effort, unity will play a critical role.

A similar theme emerged when delegates tackled the important issue of 2010 bargaining.  Delegates stressed the importance of key demands for that round of bargaining, demands that need to strengthen our College Pension Plan, improve employment security and ensure the transition to new university status does not come at the expense of existing collective agreements.  

Achieving success on the bargaining front will require not only unity amongst our locals, but also unity within the broader provincial public sector where we know that close to 200,000 workers will be joining us in bargaining for new agreements in their sectors.  As a tentative first step in developing that broader unity within the public sector, the BC Federation of Labour is convening a conference of public sector unions to discuss how our collective efforts at bargaining can be coordinated to achieve the best outcome.  That conference is set for June 9th and will form part of the planning work of Presidents’ Council in the coming months.

The most encouraging news from all of the debate was the resolve expressed by delegates to take on the challenges that we face in post-secondary education.  That resolve comes from a commitment to provide the best for our students, to build stronger connections with the communities we serve and to strengthen the collegial relationship that we have with colleagues and staff within our institutions.  

The next twelve months will prove to be a critical time for our Federation, and this year’s AGM has helped shape the unity we will need to advance our agenda in the coming months.

About FPSE

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.