The 1990s: Solidarity in Action

Follows: 5- CIEA weathers the 80s

In 1990, CIEA produced "Profile for the 90s", a comprehensive analysis of the post-secondary system, and recommendations for its reform. A summary of recommendations amounted to 14 pages of text, and covered everything from funding, to access, governance, student support, rights for aboriginal, disabled, visible minorities and seniors, pensions, copyright and labour law reform. It became a blueprint for lobbying and negotiations for the next decade. 

With the election of a NDP government in 1991, there was an opportunity to make changes. Unfortunately, there were many demands/needs after 17 years of Social Credit rule. One of CIEA's priorities was to democratize governance, and they lobbied for stakeholder representation on boards and education councils. Rob Huxtable (1st VP, from OCFA) and Pam Burry (Past President of the DCFA) were CIEA reps on the Minister's Committee on Governance in Colleges and Institutes. This work led to Bill 22 in 1994, an amendment to the College & Institute Act establishing Education Councils and providing for the election of constituency representatives on Boards.

On the bargaining front, the Harcourt government appoint Judy Korbin to lead a commission to look into the structure of negotiations with provincial public-sector employees. In 1993, the commission reported that many alleged that the settlements achieved by “powerful local teachers’ associations acting in concert with a more powerful central teachers’ federation” between 1988 and 1991 set the bar for other public sector unions. So, the report concluded, government needed more control.

One of the chief bargaining priorities since the 70s had been equity for part-time instructors, called non-regulars, because they were not regular! Though the Status of Non-Regular Faculty Committee, nicknamed SNURFS, canvassed locals, undertook surveys and did workshops at AGMs, it was still up to bargainers to try to achieve better rights and pay at their locals. The Federation was given quite a boost in this regard because one the newer members, VCCFA, had negotiated regularization in the 1988 round of bargaining. They set the bar high for the rest of the locals to achieve!  

In 1992, after talking about more coordination for years, eight CIEA locals organized themselves into the Coordinated Bargaining Council (CBC) by signing an Agreement of Association which included mutual financial support for any job action. In what was called the “Equity Round”, the CBC member locals started with different salary scales, different numbers of steps, and different top and bottom steps. They tabled five similar proposals at each of their bargaining tables: a standard salary scale; equal treatment for non-regular faculty; improved resources for faculty development; correction of workload inequities at the local level, and; a minimum standard for benefits. The Langara Faculty Association, Local 14, with the active financial and political support of the CBC, went on strike and achieved regularization language and a significant wage increase.  Selkirk and CNC also succeeded in getting some regularization language.  Other locals made important advancements outside of the CBC, including the DCFA which conducted a four-week strike to achieve regularization and other important gains in 1992.

In 1994, the Provincial Government implemented the main recommendations of the Korbin Commission, and created the Public Sector Employers’ Council (PSEC) which oversaw the Post-Secondary Employers’ Association (PSEA) in our sector. BCPSEA centralized bargaining in the K-12 sector, and other sub-sectors were set up for the direct public service and health. The creation of PSEA marked another step in the loss of local employer autonomy, especially in regards to agreeing to settlements that exceeded provincial “mandates.”

In response, CIEA locals continued to work toward coordinated bargaining. The Unions wanted to stop the employer from what appeared to be their divide and conquer technique by obtaining favourable agreements from the most vulnerable unions first and using the settlement as a lever against the others: for example, FACNC held firm against contracting out or allowing continuing/community education to be non-union in a 3 ½ week-long strike in February-March 1995. By coordinating bargaining, locals attempted to reverse the process by achieving contracts at the strongest locals and using those agreements as leverage. Another goal was to have common expiry dates which would allow even greater levels of coordination.

To put pressure on the employers and the government, in November 1995, several CIEA locals took strike votes and began short two-day rotating strikes, with one small and one large local going out at the same time.  In response to the growing pressure in 1996, the government brought the eight locals, BCGEU instructors, their employers and PSEA together in March 1996 for “multi-institutional discussions” on system-wide issues, and appointed James Dorsey to facilitate. The result was the Framework Agreement with system approaches to the following issues: contract training; contracting out; information technology; a registry for laid off faculty; labour adjustment and a fund; human resource database; a joint dispute resolution committee (JADRC); a common salary scale; and a common expiry date.

The first major policy announcement from the NDP followed Premier Harcourt's 1993 Summit on Skills Development and Training. Skills Now! was the result in 1994, with government, employers, labour and institutions coming together to encourage more skills training. The initiative proposed to inject $200 million over two years into 8100 new seats for colleges and universities, allowing degree-granting status to 6 colleges and institutes, building closer ties between high schools and the workplace (and introducing mandatory career and personal planning courses for grades 11 and 12 students), retraining workers through 10 Community Skills Centres and initiatives like Forest Renewal BC "to provide new skills training to 10,000 people...and developing individual training plans for 50,000 unemployed British Columbians....." CIEA's response was cool, as there'd been little consultation in developing such a huge, multi-faceted program. (see September 1994 analysis) CIEA was concerned about the on-going underfunding of PSE, and what impact apprenticeship credit in high schools, workplace and community training would have on its member Faculty Associations. It continued the call for a larger role in policy planning. 

The Harcourt government responded in June 1995 by calling together stakeholders to develop a plan for the college and institute system. CIEA's reps were Ed Lavalle, Kathy Conroy and Maureen Shaw. They were joined by reps from the BCGEU, the CFS (BC), institutions and ministry. They produced a report in 1996 called Charting a New Course, which, in the context of lifelong learning, and under the goals of relevance and quality, access, affordability and accountability, laid out a plan for making all the disparate parts perform better as a system. System agencies included the Centre for Curriculum, Transfer and Technology, the Centre for Education Information, Standards and Services, and a new Open Learning Agency.     

The 1996 provincial election saw the New Democrats re-elected, even though they had less popular vote than Gordon Campbell's Liberals (39-33 + 2 for Wiesgerber's Reform Party and Gordon Wilson won the lone seat for his Progressive Democratic Alliance). 

When the parties came together to negotiate at the end of the two year Framework Agreement, the number of participating unions and employers increased to 21 and 16 respectively. Seven BCGEU faculty unions also joined. The employers joined under pressure from the Provincial NDP Government, which warned that institutions using local bargaining only would have no guarantee that their settlements would be funded. In fact, the settlements of those who bargained locally were not funded in the first year.

With only a few hours before a province-wide strike in late October 1998, the parties reached an agreement for the first Common Agreement. It included the following:

  • Art 2 – Harassment
  • Art 3 – Employer-Union Relations with  1/4 Union release
  • Art 4 – Prior Learning Assessment
  • Art 5 – Copyright & Intellectual Property
  • Art 6 – Regularization
  • Art 7 – Leaves
  • Art 8 – Parental Leaves
  • Art 9 – Benefits & a Joint Committee on Benefits Administration
  • Art 10 – Pensions
  • Art 11 – Early Retirement Incentives
  • Art 12 – Provincial Salary Scale & Secondary Scale Adjustment
  • Art 13 – Superior Benefits
  • LOU - Distributed Learning Committee
  • LOUs – specific to FACNC, Malaspina & Selkirk secondary scales (negotiated at the 11th hour)

Following the 1998 round, the employers complained that the unions were better prepared than the employers and that they used the threat to strike effectively. Employers also balked at the regularization process that was set up: taking agreed-on parameters to a local table, narrowing differences, appealing to JADRC to intervene, and finally binding arbitration before a named arbitrator, Don Munroe. Six CIEA locals opened their CAs under Article 6, and it became clear very early on that there would be no local negotiation, or JADRC settlements. The strongest case, which in our view was the closest to regularization, was at Malaspina. The FA lost the right of first refusal in Munroe’s award. Kwantlen FA went next, and Munroe’s award in this case established the main elements of regularization. Two subsequent awards of Vince Ready established what kind of work would be captured. FACNC fought battles on two fronts: trying to get LOU #3 and Article 6, the former agreed to at the common bargaining table but not by the local employer. Ultimately, after two years of hard negotiations and PSEA agreeing that LOU #3 was costed to the provincial, not the local settlement, regularization language was agreed to at CNC.  

The other wrinkle to Common Table bargaining was the employers' view that once bargaining was over in Vancouver, there was no need to bargain anything locally. “All the money was allocated at the Common Table”, we were told. So when locals tried to bargain local issues at local tables, employers refused. VCCFA held a study session in late November to protest. FACNC held a similar one at noon hour on December 1st, and the College took the FA to the LRB claiming that the union had gone on strike illegally. After a few days at the Board, the local parties were ordered to negotiate local issues, but the exercise involved tabling issues, the union presenting them, the College saying no to each cost item. Finally, the Common and Local Agreements were signed.

On a positive note, a major achievement in the 1998 round was a jointly trusteed pension plan. CIEA had a very active and knowledgeable Pension Advisory Committee, and though pensions could not be bargained, CIEA grabbed the opportunity of an alignment of bargaining with an actuarial surplus to improve pension benefits and inflation protection, as well as provide early retirement incentives. In the course of these discussions, it became apparent the the government was willing to explore joint trusteeship. Paul Ramsey was the Minister of Finance while this new arrangement - the first in BC - was being set up, giving plan members an equal footing with government and employers in the administration of the College Pension Plan. 

In the 2001 round of Common Table bargaining, the number of employers dropped to 14. None of the University-Colleges participated. The Provincial Government did not force employers to attend, but made it clear that employers and unions that did not participate would have to adopt the compensation package as agreed to at the Common Table, whether they attended or not. Most locals participated, even when their employers chose not to.

Bargaining took place in the context of the end of the NDP government’s 5 year term – an election had to be called by early April, and the polls were not favourable. Employers sought to limit the number of items bargained at the CT, and the parties spent weeks narrowing the issues in protocol discussions. When it became increasingly obvious that the Liberals would win the upcoming provincial election, the bargaining committee decided to try and complete bargaining before the election. The final settlement included the following:

  • EI Top-up for Maternity and Parental Leaves
  • Common Disability Plan (employer-paid)
  • Provincial Salary Scale went from 13 to 10 steps
  • Medical Travel Referral
  • Funds for local bargaining (“a local pot”)

The total compensation for faculty, which included wage increases and movement on the salary scale as a result of the suppression of salary steps, resulted in the average annual salary being $10,163 higher at the top at the end of the three year agreement. But the new Liberal government did not fund the agreement, leading to faculty and staff layoffs at several institutions.  

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