CIEA Weathers the 80s

Follows: 4 - CIEA Founded

The theme of the 1981 AGM was "Professionalism and Unionism", encompassing what many thought were incompatible in the 1970s. Two more members had joined since 1980, the Staff Society at BCIT and Fraser Valley, so CIEA now consisted of 11 members. The VIA and Capilano came as observers, as did the Alberta Association of College Faculties.

The AGM package included reports from the pensions, salary & working conditions, and education policy committees. The latter was set up to advise on government policy, budgets, and governance matters. The Salary & Working Conditions Committee reported that they had advised the use of a labour lawyer, and Leo McGrady (visiting lawyer at the UBC Law Faculty) was retained on a fee for service basis. Leo had already provided legal assistance to a number of locals in the 70s, and the hope was that "such an arrangement will bring long-term benefits as Mr. McGrady gains a comprehensive picture of the labour relations issues that face the colleges and institutes in this province." Neither Leo nor CIEA folks at the time foresaw a relationship that's lasted almost 50 years!

There was general admiration for the work of the new General Secretary. Tom Beardsley was very organized, working not only with Jan Taylor in the office, but the executive and the salary & working conditions committee. In the first year, he developed a standard numbering system for collective agreement clauses, analyzed end dates and started a discussion about a common expiry date. He produced research bulletins, negotiations updates, and arbitration reports. 

CIEA also developed a union education program, and began delivering workshops for members. At the 1981 AGM, Tom Beardsley delivered hands-on workshops on contract language, table techniques and negotiation prep, and total compensation; Ed Lavalle had workshops on negotiation techniques and preparation for interest arbitration; and Peter Burton and Peter Cameron delivered a 12 hour workshop on "Total Compensation Package." [Burton and Cameron would go on to be on the employers' side in the '90s].

The CIEA Presidents' Council was directed to prepare briefs to the Minister of Education on budget cutbacks & the "Three Council Structure". The latter had been set up in the late 1970s under the Colleges & Institutes Act, dividing responsibilities between Academic, Occupational Training, and Management Advisory. By 1981, it was clear that the system wasn't working very well.

In 1982, the SoCred government tabled another restraint budget. The Compensation Stabilization Program was designed to control wages, and to roll back wages if they were deemed out of line. This time, a broad range of education organizations came together to form the Defend Education Services Coalition. CIEA joined with the BC Teachers' Federation, the Association of University and College Employees, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Vancouver Regional and Municipal Employees Union, and the Canadian Federation of Students (Pacific Region). CIEA committed $6.00 per FTE to help fund this campaign ($2.50 from its own funds and $3.50/FTE from locals). Three hundred thousand leaflets were distributed around the province, and large rallies were held on Education Day, May 29, 1982.

The 1982 CIEA AGM featured an opening plenary on “Provincial & Regional Rationalization of Education Programs”. John Waters, formerly of FACNC and now President of the Douglas/Kwantlen FA, moderated a panel of Paul Gallagher (Principal, Capilano College), Sandy MacIver (Ministry of Education Director of Operations & Planning, Post-Secondary Department) & Kent Yakel (BCIT Staff Society Past President). The featured luncheon speaker was Joseph Katz, a UBC Professor Emeritus of Education, who asked and answered "Why BC Needs a Royal Commission on Education.”

The wage restraint imposed by the SoCred government coupled with the "ability to pay" condition led to a raucous labour climate. The BCGEU (representing 40,000 members) went on strike in August 1982, seeking a one year deal with 14% wage increase, two cost of living adjustments and more full-time work for its 10,000 auxiliaries. In the end, the union settled for 6.5% and 5% over 15 months, and full time work for 1500 auxiliaries.  

Premier Bennett went to the polls in April 1983 campaigning on more restraint to wrestle the recession to the ground, and the SoCreds won an increased majority on May 5. The CIEA AGM took place on May 28: its theme was "Fighting for a Future: Colleges and Institutes Under Attack." There were several resolutions passed opposed to the restraint program.

Then, on July 7, budget day, the government introduced 26 pieces of legislation:

  • The Employment Standards Branch and Human Rights Commission were shut down
  • The BCGEU contract was gutted
  • Public sector employers could fire employees without cause
  • Government tightened its grip on school boards and colleges, taking control of budgets and giving itself the right to fire uncooperative elected boards
  • Rent controls were abolished and landlords were given permission to evict tenants without cause

The response from the labour movement was swift: a one-day conference on July 15 brought together BC Federation of Labour affiliates, independent unions, colleges, university professors and doctors. A $1 million war chest was set up for Operation Solidarity. They were joined by community activists whose organizations had been hard hit. On July 19, the government announced that the Tranquille institutuion in Kamloops was going to be closed and all 600 BCGEU members would be laid off. The workers took over the institution and ran it for three weeks before the government promised to honour seniority and bumping rights.

Huge rallies took place around the province: over 20,000 showed up in Vancouver on July 23; 25,000 marched on the legislature in Victoria on July 27; on August 10, over 40,000 filled Empire Stadium; and on October 15, 50-60,000 marched by the Hotel Vancouver where the SoCreds were holding their annual convention. With BCGEU negotiations going nowhere, the union went out on strike at midnight October 31. Operation Solidarity's plan was to escalate strike action, with teachers going out first on Nov 8, Crown Corporation employees on Nov 10, BC Ferry workers and municipal employees on Nov. 14; and finally health sector workers.

On November 8, the teachers went out on strike and pickets lines held. They were joined by college instructors, university clerical staff and public school maintenance workers. Unionized workers at the Crown Corporations went out two days later. Then, on Sunday, Nov 13, after round the clock negotiations with mediator Vince Ready, the government and BCGEU reached a deal that saw Bill 2 withdrawn and Bill 3 exemptions that would see layoffs done according to the collective agreement. Jack Munro went to Kelowna to meet with Premier Bennett, and the accord they reached Sunday night ended Operation Solidarity. Though the non-union coalition members felt sold out by the union settlement, the anti-labour attack by government had been largely stymied.    

CIEA President Finnbogason reported in January 1984 that 11 of 12 CIEA locals had voted to approve job action (only 2 had ever held strike votes before). During the days CIEA locals joined the Operation Solidarity picket lines on Nov 8, 9, 10, 80% of the college/institute system was shut down (non-members Northern Lights & Emily Carr also participated). 

The 1984 AGM theme, "Quality and/or Productivity", continued to look at the fallout of the government's restraint program and its push for productivity increases. A new formula funding system was being put into place, and some employers were using it and the decline in operating grants to pursue layoffs of programs and/or people they didn't like. There were many grievances in these years of violation of collective agreement provisions on layoff, and institutions may have tried to do what government itself had backed off of in 1983 with respect to public employees, that is fire without cause (see CNC and Kwantlen). 

The 1985 AGM theme was "Surviving Restraint", and CIEA members developed a provincial union model. Work during the year produced a plan presented to delegates in 1986, but because it involved a fundamental change to the organization, the BCIT Staff Society withdrew, and a Special General Meeting was held on February 8 to amend bylaw 1.3.1 (which required 6 months' notice). However, the model was adopted by all the other locals. Read the Resolution for Provincial Union Proposal.

The Provincial Union Model included:

  • a strike/lockout defence fund, centrally funded legal services, and staff rep services for bargaining & contract administration
  • Regular member dues $348 per FTE per year
  • Associate member dues $150 per FTE per year
  • Dues for support staff participation in Strike/Lockout Defence Fund $63 per FTE per year
  • Fees for service at the discretion of the Executive, subject to PC approval
  • Dues will come into effect when staff rep, legal and defence fund services are available (before that transition, $147 per FTE per year
  • Expected annual budget - $515,018
  • Constitution & By-law amendments

All of this required confirmation of membership & assignment of local numbers. 

Other priorities for members in 1986: 

  • Affirmative action – CIEA work to ensure that all member institutions endeavour to expand the number of women, native people, visible minorities, and the physically disabled at all levels of their operations
  • CIEA work to identify and remove discrimination in the hiring, training, and promotion policies in its member institutions
  • The Salary & Working Conditions Committee should work with the Status of Women Committee to develop affirmative action contract language, and CIEA assist member unions to have affirmative action workshops

Bill Bennett stepped down as premier before the 1986 election, and Bill Vander Zalm took over. The election was called on September 24 for an election on October 22. CIEA joined with the BCTF, CFF (Pacific Region) and CUFA BC in a campaign that included issue papers, policy summaries, and questions for candidates. Coalition reps met with the Vancouver Sun editorial board, issued press releases and held a news conference. But Vander Zalm won re-election handily, and the attack on labour (and education) continued. 

Locals had been discussing the possible need to co-ordinate their bargaining from the outset. The 1987 CIEA AGM passed the first of a series of motions at subsequent AGMs in support of a co-ordinated bargaining approach. The 1987 motion requested that local associations forward to the CIEA office copies of their local proposals (union and employer), as well as counter proposals, in order that the information could be shared and analyzed for trends. 

In the fall of 1987, CIEA hosted the first “Technical and Policy Development Conference,” with the theme “Co-ordinated Bargaining: A Plan for Action.”  One session was jointly facilitated by John Waters and Ed Lavalle. The Bargaining Coordination and Review Committee was formed to facilitate more active co-ordination between locals and the sharing of information. 

The increasing control exerted by the Provincial government made bargaining more difficult.  In a report produced by KPMG, the relatively strong ability of the Provincial Government to control bargaining outcomes in the post-secondary sector was identified:

Post-secondary institutions, which include universities, the colleges and a number of specialized institutes, are much easier to coordinate than the school districts with their elected boards. The attendant public profile is reduced. Within these institutions, the mandate is set by respective boards of directors. The government specifically appoints members to the Board. This coupled with the ability of government to control the dollars that each institution receives, has resulted in far less dramatic settlements than in the school districts.

The report went onto suggest that the Province was perhaps too successful in controlling bargaining as "…similarly qualified teachers are paid more in the public school system than in the post-secondary education system.  Recent estimates indicate that, given two individuals with identical qualifications, the person in the school system will earn $6,000-$7,000 more than their counterpart working in the post-secondary institution. As a result, the colleges and universities are having some difficulty in attracting and retaining qualified personnel." [See “The Issue of the B.C. Government’s Role in Collective Bargaining,” in British Columbia Financial Review: The Issue of Personnel, Shadow FTEs and Collective Bargaining (KPMG, Peat Marwick Stevenson & Kellogg, Management Consultants).]

Also in 1987, the SocCred government set up the Access Commission.  Its report came out in 1987, called "Access for All". The goal was to increase the number of post-secondary seats by 15,000, and it led to the establishment of university colleges, four year institutions that could offer degrees overseen by the research universities.

The 1988 CIEA AGM began the process of reflecting on what had happened in the 1980s, and what to do for the next decade. Battles with the government continued, especially in opposing Bill 19, and CIEA participated in the BC Fed’s Expanded Executive Council, and helped the Fed’s campaign against privatization and free trade. The keynote speaker at the '88 convention was BC Fed President Ken Georgetti. Resolutions called for locals to have Status of Women committees, and to work towards better coordination of bargaining. To keep labour education on the front burner, CIEA sponsored two Technical and Policy Development conferences each year in the late 1980s.  

CIEA also welcomed the Langara Faculty Association back, and the Vancouver Instructors Association also joined (the VIA had recently negotiated great regularization language that still stands amongst the best in the post-secondary world). The decade ended with a strike at Douglas College over low wages, workload and the college's wish to contract out instructors' work. For the last three weeks of November, faculty were on the picket line, eventually settling for an 18% wage increase over two years, regularization of PT work, and curbing the institution's ability to contract out work. 


Next: 6 - The 1990s: Solidarity in Action