Job action at BCIT: summary and context


Confused about the strikes? Need a primer? Read on for everything you need to know about the job action at BCIT

BCIT has been busy as of recent not solely due to the expected rush of final exam preparation season, but also because of strike action at all campuses.

In late October, the BC Government Employees’ Union (BCGEU) support staff voted 89 per cent in favour of strike action, and took their first action in early November. Following this was a series of strike votes and strike action by the BCGEU, which is the union representing BCIT’s Support Staff and Vocational (Trades) Instructors, and the Faculty and Staff Association (FSA).

[pullquote]“If one institution gets, say, an ‘X’ per cent increase in the salary scale, all institutions in that association get the same increase,”[/pullquote]According to BCIT President Don Wright, the institution’s bargaining agent is the Post-Secondary Employers’ Association, while other collective bargaining in the public sector is done through the Public Sector Employees’ Council. The Ministry of Advanced Education set up the Common Bread, which established the idea of a common salary grid with minimal differentiation across the whole sector, Wright told members of the BCGEU and FSA at a briefing session on Wednesday, November 21.

“If one institution gets, say, an ‘X’ per cent increase in the salary scale, all institutions in that association get the same increase,” said Wright. “That’s the long-term context.”

In regards to the short-term, Wright says about one year ago the government announced their pursuit of a cooperative gains mandate.

“Basically the message was that if public agencies, crown corporations, institutions, [and] schools were able to find savings within their budget, and they didn’t go into deficit [or] reduce service to the public, then there would be a mandate for moderate wage change in 2012 and 2013,” said Wright.

In response to the cooperative gains mandate, according to Wright, BCIT developed a full menu of savings initiatives that he says would challenge the institution.

“We’re not proposing to do any layoffs, but it will be challenging the institution; we will have to do things differently, we will have to find efficiencies and we’ll have to have more aggressive revenue targets,” said Wright.

BCIT has experienced surpluses for the last couple of years, however there has been no increase in the institution’s grant, and inflation has continually increased, leading to challenges for BCIT, according to Wright. Regardless, Wright has made it clear he and BCIT are in full support of the BCGEU support staff at BCIT, BCIT vocational instructors, and the FSA.

“The management [and the] Board [of Governors] of [BCIT] are all on the same page… and we believe that employees deserve wage increases,” said Wright, “and we believe they deserve increases comparable to what others in the public sector are getting… this is our position.”

Wright says that the government’s position to date has been unbending, and that the Deputy of the Minister of Advanced Education is in particular very adamant that the common grid needs to be maintained.

Moving forward, Wright says the government has asked for a meeting with all of the members of the Employers Association where the government will state their stance. The date for this meeting was not stated.

“I remain determined to pursue every possible means to get the government to move,” said Wright, who believes putting the most pressure on the government will be effective.

“We need to find strategies that maximize the pressure on the government; it’s political pressure that’s going to move the government,” said Wright. “The [New Democratic Party] isn’t going to be moved.”

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

Confused about the strikes on campus? Read The Link’s guide to frequently asked questions regarding the groups, terms, and major players associated.

Who is taking job action? 

Job action at BCIT is being taken by the British Columbia Employees’ Association (BCGEU) support staff, BCGEU vocational instructors and the BCIT Faculty Staff Association (FSA).

What is the FSA and who are its members? 

The FSA represents about 600 instructors in part-time studies, about another 600 full time dayschool instructors, professionals in the library, students’ services in counseling, 100 members in information technology services, technical staff in the technology programs, and assistant instructors.

What is the BCGEU and who are its members? 

The BCGEU is the union representing support staff and some instructors at BCIT. There are approximately 434 support staff at BCIT’s Burnaby campus, which include administrative assistants, graphic artists, buyers, technicians, cashiers, clerks and receptionists.

What do the FSA and the BCGEU want?

The FSA and BCGEU want issues addressed such as parental leave, staff turnover, wages, and the disparity between how part-time and full-time instructors are paid.

What does the provincial government have to do with all of this? 

Although BCIT President Don Wright has announced that he is in support of the strike demands and will do what he can to help send a message to the government, that is all he and BCIT can do. BCIT does not have a mandate from the provincial government to the Employers’ Association to settle the issues wanting to be addressed by the FSA and the BCGEU. Therefore, members of the BCGEU and the FSA, and those who support them, are trying to communicate their message to the provincial government.

What is the difference between a part-time instructor and a fulltime instructor? 

Full time instructors at BCIT are paid more than part-time instructors who argue their workload is quite similar to full-time instructors.[hr]

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