Convention unity sends strong message to employers and governments

There is a lot of momentum created when the representatives of 10,000 post-secondary educators in BC unite around a single plan for action in their sector. That's what happened last week as delegates at FPSE's 30th Annual Convention unanimously supported the Convention Action Plan, a plan that will target the organization's resources, staff and leadership on five key priorities. Those priorities included:

1. Renewing our collective agreements
2. Increasing public awareness of post-secondary education
3. Providing advocacy and labour relations services to member locals
4. Building capacity within our activist ranks, and
5. Expanding our organizing efforts.

The Convention theme spoke to just how post-secondary educators would advance these priorities: Raising Your Voice. Delegates stressed the important role that post-secondary education plays in the lives of their students and the vitality of their communities. They noted that the potential of our public post-secondary institutions is undermined by the policy and funding choices of both the federal and provincial governments who have failed to adequately support the budget needs of these institutions. Moreover, delegates were unanimous in their resolve that by speaking out as post-secondary educators, by raising our voice, we are able to not only pressure governments to change course, but also rally the support of our communities who want to see a more affordable and accessible public post-secondary education system.

The Action Plan debate also highlighted the important work that FPSE is supporting in the organizing of private colleges and institutes in BC. Delegates approved a two year budget for organizing that would see additional resources and staff time devoted to an increased organizing effort. The commitment to organising is a long term undertaking by FPSE. The struggle to certify private institutions is significant. The Labour Code in BC tilts heavily in favour of employers, a fact that adds to our organizing challenges and makes first agreement bargaining difficult. Despite those disadvantages, our organizing track record has shown positive results, a point delegates emphasized in their support for the Action Plan.

The Convention delegates were united in their approach to the current round of bargaining at our public post-secondary institutions. They acknowledged that many employers were looking for concessions at local bargaining tables. However, they also stressed that through careful coordination of both local and provincial bargaining, a more effective strategy to counter that employer pressure could be developed.

The next twelve months will prove critical to post-secondary educators. Bargaining table pressures will certainly increase. The pressure on budgets at local institutions will also rise. However, the resolve of our members to press ahead with demands for change will also move into high gear. Our collective voice will make a huge difference in that struggle, a voice made that much stronger by the unity developed at this convention.

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.