Labour unions come to agreement with BCIT

After months of bargaining and strike action, the BCGEU and FSA have reached a deal with BCIT

Courtesy of Blanca Blandon

Courtesy of Blanca Blandon

Voting by electronic ballot ended on January 30, revealing a clear majority of the 827 Faculty Staff Association (FSA) members who cast their ballots in consensus of a settlement agreement.

One week later, the British Columbia Employees’ Union (BCGEU) support staff voted 66 per cent in favor of ratifying a new agreement. Another week later, the BCGEU vocational instructors reached a deal with BCIT.

Richard Schaeffer, chair of the BCGEU bargaining committee, said there are still ongoing concerns for the support staff despite having ratified a new agreement.

“The benefit restrictions that were specific to the support staff were a real issue and will remain so into the next round of negotiations,” Schaeffer told The Link.

Paul Reniers, executive director of the FSA, said the newly ratified agreement includes wage increases of 1 per cent on March 21, 2013; July 1, 2013; December 1, 2013 and April 1, 2014, meaning an overall four per cent wage increase over the term of the contract. The BCGEU vocational instructors and support staff reached the same wage increase agreement with BCIT.

Reniers said it’s possible the contract was only ratified based on the feeling that there was no better option, not because of a genuine fulfillment with the terms it carried.

“No one in the union was suggesting that this actually solved any of the issues that we were looking to deal with in bargaining,” said Reniers. [pullquote]“No one in the union was suggesting that this actually solved any of the issues that we were looking to deal with in bargaining” [/pullquote] “No one in the union was suggesting that this actually solved any of the issues that we were looking to deal with in bargaining.”

In a meeting with the FSA members in November last year, BCIT President Don Wright stated he was in support of the requests made by the union’s members and that he would do what he could to help achieve the results the FSA was hoping for.

“It was pretty apparent that the more action we took, the more the government moved and that’s a sad lesson to tolerate,” said Reniers, “but Don [Wright] did help.”

Reniers said that the prospect of waiting any longer for a wage increase was difficult to bear, especially because the FSA had not seen a wage increase between July 1, 2009 and March 31, 2013.

According to Reniers, there were other viable options available instead of ratifying the agreement.

“A real option would have been to probably wait and see if a new government was going to give BCIT more latitude,” Reniers told The Link, “or wait and see if BCIT was going to take a different approach to try and get more done with their authority.”

Reniers said that after three-and-a-half days of strike action, the union wasn’t sure if any more job action would have had any impact on the end result.

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Neetu was born and raised in the Okanagan Valley (minus the few toddler years she spent living in Punjab, India where her line of heritage is from). She moved to the lower mainland to attend BCIT and is now in her graduating year of the Broadcast and Online Journalism Program. Her writing and editing for Link magazine often happens late at night because when she's not at school she works as a reporter and anchor for CKNW Newstalk 980 and is also involved in the start up of a charity called the Beautiful World Foundation. She loves to travel and feels fortunate to be in a field where she can share the stories of interesting and inspiring people from around the world.

neetu@linknewspaper.ca

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