Federation of Post-Secondary Educators (FPSE) Standing Committees meet at least twice a year in Vancouver, normally in the fall and spring. Read more to see this spring's committee reports from our LFA reps.
Decolonization, Indigenization, and Reconciliation - Justin Wilson
I serve as Co-Chair of FPSE’s Decolonization, Reconciliation and Indigenization sub-committee (DRISC). The past year has been rich with many relational insights from across our diverse Province and I am very grateful to be part of this historic committee.
I would like to invite each of you as colleagues to reflect on Bill 41 – 2019: Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act ‘in relation to’ the following United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples articles:
- Article 8 (Indigenous learners/faculty not being subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture that deprives them of their cultural integrity as distinct Peoples);
- Article 14 (Indigenous learners/faculty/communities establishing and controlling educational systems to provide education in a manner appropriate to diverse cultural methods of teaching and learning;
- Article 18 (the right of Indigenous learners/faculty to participate in decision-making in matters affecting their education);
- Article 19 (the right to be included in decisions before implementing legislative or administrative measures);
- Article 34 (the right of Indigenous learners/faculty to promote, develop and maintain their distinctive institutional structures and customs, spirituality and/or practices in course content/assessments).
While not without its challenges, UNDRIP presents an opportunity to centre ‘educational equity’ by considering what role (a) cultural freedom, (b) informed consent, and (c) dignity of Indigenous learners/faculty have while operating within post-secondary environments such as Langara College. I suggest using a ‘4P discursive framework’ to help enhance dialogue within your disciplines:
- Do Indigenous learners/faculty see themselves positively in the curriculum/disciplines/power structures or are there undertones of benevolent paternalism and/or outright dominance;
- Do learning spaces/places visibly celebrate Indigenous cultures equitably or are some cultures privileged (and whose cultures/knowledge gets erased) over others;
- Are our institutional scholarship practices (teaching and research) community-based/participatory, and representative of diasporic Indigenous cultures as a publicly funded institution;
- Are organizational working conditions, policies and procedures culturally safe for Indigenous learners/faculty/community members)?
While British Columbia was the first Province to pass this important historic legislation, recent events such as Unist'ot'en means our work as educators is just ramping up. A rather troubling challenge are reports of Indigenous staff and faculty experiencing hostile (bullying) work environments resulting in macro/micro aggressions such as racism, sexism or other forms of Collegial Supremacy. Collectively, there is no place for toxic working conditions for faculty passionate about providing decolonized education in the spirit of collegiality and academic freedom. One recommendation worth considering is the development of a community-based/accredited union leadership program aimed at cultivating greater intercultural proficiencies/competencies needed to enhancing working relationships with local Indigenous community scholars on whose shared unceded and occupied territories many of us live, work and play.
l look forward to any dialogue that enhances our collective solidarity.
Disability Management and Rehabilitation (DMRC) - Tanya Lewis
While successfully applying for STD and LTD with Sun Life remains an onerous undertaking, our members continue to be able to use their banked sick days (I have 260-something!) in lieu of STD, which means that we often don’t suffer wage loss when ill.
Creative solutions are needed to ensure members on part-time STD and LTD still have access to benefits as the College implements WorkDay, the new campus-wide computer system. Unfortunately, the human element in caring for members is being overridden by the demands of Workday. What’s more, our HR department has reorganized so that we no longer have someone who specializes in the various types of leave.
Education Policy Committee (EPC) - Stephen Phillips
The EPC’s spring meeting was held March 6-7. Leslie Molnar, Executive liaison to the EPC, reported that FPSE had made a written submission in February to the Ministry of Advanced Education on the subject of international education (IE), a topic the EPC has been studying for the past 18 months. The brief includes a number of recommendations that formed part of the EPC’s report to last year’s FPSE AGM. Among other things, it calls on the provincial government to regulate IE recruiters more strictly and to do an audit of how colleges and universities are folding IE into their institutional policies. The brief also urges the government to compel post-secondary institutions to track and disclose publicly all relevant data on IE, including revenues derived from international students, international student outcomes by programme, and the nature of language requirements and assessments.
The EPC has embarked on a study of collegial governance at member institutions. This effort began with the circulation of a template table to all locals to help map the various policies and practices through which faculty participate in the governance of their respective institutions. This project is timely since many locals are reporting a lack of meaningful consultation with faculty on recent decisions regarding international student enrollments and other aspects of IE.
In other news, Jasmine Nicholsfigueiredo (Douglas College, local 4) stepped down as EPC chair. She was succeeded by Alan Rice (Okanagan College, local 9).
Human Rights and International Solidarity (HRISC) - Bradley Hughes
At its recent meeting, the HRISC passed a motion recommending to Presidents’ Council that our locals put pressure on their employers to stop using the services of KPMG. The accounting firm has been implicated in schemes to help the ultra-rich hide their money in tax havens to avoid paying taxes in Canada. We also sent a recommendation to the new FPSE Climate Committee that it consider ways to help our locals join and broaden the climate strike movement. And in response to a proposed motion asking PC to purchase and present a bouquet at the annual Miners Memorial in Cumberland (see https://minersmemorial.ca/), we had a good discussion about the racism of the union movement at the time of Ginger Goodwin’s Murder in 1919. Our union movement supported segregation and differential wages for Chinese, Japanese and Indigenous workers at that time. Accordingly, we are calling on FPSE to support the erection of a plaque in the cemetery where the annual celebration takes place to commemorate this shameful part of trade union history.
Finally, in response to the RCMP invasion and occupation of Wet’suwet’en nation, delegates to the meeting added their names to an email to the Premier and Prime Minister expressing our support for the Wet’suwet’en, and calling on them to call off the RCMP and rely on negotiation instead of force of arms.
This year's FPSE HRISC speakers' tour was scheduled for March, featuring María Luisa Regalado Morán, one of the founding members of the Honduran Women’s Collective (CODEMUH), a feminist organization that promotes women’s and workers’ rights, with an emphasis on labour rights and occupational health and safety in the maquila (sweatshop) sector. The lower mainland leg of the tour, which included events at Capilano University and Emily Carr, took place as scheduled. However, the rest of the tour had to be cut short owing to restrictions imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Non-Regular Faculty Committee - Niall Christie
The FPSE Non-Regular Committee met on January 10-11, 2020. Due to inclement weather, attendance was a little sparse, but we managed to achieve quorum. As usual, we had a round-robin of reports from representatives who were present; we also perused the written reports sent by several absentee members. Not surprisingly, bargaining is once again a major focus for non-regular faculty, who hope to see improvements in their conditions. Secondary scales is the foremost issue at the current Common Table bargaining meetings, along with wage increases and concerns relevant to indigenous faculty.
Bargaining began last November. At time of writing, no deal has yet been reached and the prospects are not encouraging as PSEA is being unco-operative. However, an impasse has not yet been declared.
The group also brainstormed ideas for workshop suggestions for the FPSE AGM. Ideas included: protecting your vulnerable non-regular association members; models for contract enforcement and stewarding; using social media responsibly (public vs. private use); personal safety in dealing with students; diversity and inclusion; Indigenization; retirement and faculty renewal.
The committee also put forward a motion for the AGM to the effect that FPSE should encourage associations to include at least one non-regular faculty member in their delegations to the FPSE AGM.
Pension Advisory Committee (PAC) - Bryan Breguet
At its meeting of February 21-22, the PAC received the report of Mary L. Griffin, president of the retirees’ association. Retirees desire to have access to travel insurance as part of the extended health plan. Though the current plan doesn’t cover it, retirees can purchase additional coverage. Discussions now under way may result in the inclusion of travel insurance in the plan.
Patrick DeRochie from Shift Action, a project of Tides Canada that advises pension funds on how to address the climate crisis, gave a presentation on the risk to the pension fund caused by climate change. BC Investment (BCI), the firm that manages our pension fund, is taking climate change into consideration more than before. However, DeRochie was of the opinion that BCI could do better and only awarded them a D grade as other plans – in Canada and elsewhere – have been doing more. This is an important topic and PAC members are aware that plan members care about it.
A draft of the triannual Social and Responsible Investment (SRI) report was circulated to PAC members. Prepared by the SRI sub-committee, it stresses the importance of taking social and environmental factors into consideration while respecting the fiduciary duty to the members. This has become a hot topic for pension plan managers as it become increasingly evident that climate change is posing challenges to the viability of pension plans, especially in Canada given our heavy investments in fossil fuels. Many are now arguing that pension boards must take climate change into account as part of their fiduciary duty. While many members have expressed a desire to divest completely from fossil fuels, the consensus among experts seems to be that divestment is too simplistic a solution to a complex problem.
The trustees’ report indicated strong returns of 7.4% for the year ending 30 September 2019. These include returns of 8% and 7.2% over the past 5- and 20- year periods respectively. As a reminder, the plan is viable as long as it makes 6.25% annually. Thanks to strong market gains over the last 10 years, the plan is over funded and, in accordance with the law, the board took steps to deal with the surpluses. It decided to allocate 64% to the Inflation Adjustment Account (IAA), which allows pensions to be adjusted to the cost of living; meanwhile, 36% will go into a rate stabilization account. The IAA is now fully funded and pensions can be indexed to 2.5%. Note that inflation adjustments are not guaranteed and are only made possible by strong stock market returns. Lastly, it was decided that the extra 0.1% contributions to the IAA for every $1000 increase in salaries would no longer be necessary. As a result, the contribution rates of plan members will not increase with the next salary raise.
Workplace Health, Safety and Environment (WHSEC) - Valerie Lloyd
I attended the WHSEC meeting on January 24-25, along with representatives from 12 other locals. The following are highlights of the meeting.
Discussions were held on campus safety and information was shared about APPs that alert campus users about safety issues and video surveillance on campus. Members also shared the terms of reference of their locals’ Joint Occupational Health and Safety (JOHS) Committees. Finally, there was a discussion about the WCB Compensation Review. It was suggested that once Janet Patterson’s Compensation Review and Lobby Plan is released, FPSE should lobby the government to implement Review’s recommendations.