Report on the FPSE AGM & Convention, 13 - 16 May 2019

The 49th AGM and Convention of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC (FPSE) was held last May at Kelowna, on the unceded territory of the Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation. It was attended by delegates representing the Federation’s 19 affiliated college and university faculty associations, including the LFA.  The meeting’s theme - Solidarity in Action: Together for a Better Future - was a reminder of the continuing importance to faculty of collective action, especially as 2019-20 is a bargaining year for member locals.

Report on the FPSE AGM & Convention, 13-16 May 2019

Chandra Pasma, FPSE AGM 2019

Chandra Pasma, FPSE AGM & Convention, May 2019

Report by Stephen Phillips

Among the strategic priorities approved for the coming year, delegates agreed that locals should coordinate their efforts to achieve collective bargaining goals, including the advancement of issues vital to non-regular faculty.  Another priority will be to conduct a review of the current funding model for public post-secondary education and to formulate recommendations for a fully funded PSE system. Other notable strategic goals include analyzing and making recommendations on international education (IE), lobbying for the regulation of IE recruiters and agents, instituting better oversight of private colleges, and regulating tuition and other fees charged to international students.

International education was a major concern of the 2019 AGM.  It was the subject of a panel discussion offering the perspectives of faculty reps. from three institutions (Kwantlen, Douglas, and College of the Rockies); it was also the focus of a report of the Education Policy Committee (EPC), a standing committee of FPSE.  A key finding of that report was the lack of readily available information from BC colleges and universities on their IE policies and practices as well as the dearth of research on the effects on teaching and learning of the growing influx of international students into BC classrooms.  For this reason, outgoing EPC chair Christine Neigel spoke against a resolution calling for FPSE to convene a special conference on IE, contending that it would be premature to hold such a conference before more research is done. Only then, she argued, can FPSE begin to discuss a viable plan of action. Heeding Neigel’s advice, delegates defeated the conference resolution.

Among the resolutions considered were two proposed amendments to FPSE’s Constitution moved by Local 15 (VCCFA).  The first, which was carried with the requisite two-thirds majority, increases from one year to two the term of office of the President, Secretary-Treasurer, and First and Second Vice Presidents.  (A similar amendment, debated at the 2015 AGM, was defeated.) The second amendment proposed to establish a limit of six consecutive years on the tenure of the President and Secretary-Treasurer. It was defeated.

A highlight of the conference was the keynote address of Chandra Pasma, senior research officer of CUPE National. Pasma presented the results of a recent report she co-authored with Erika Shaker for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives on the nature and extent of precarious work among post-secondary faculty in Canada.[1] Based on a study of 71 universities, comprising 91% of publicly funded universities in Canada, 52% of faculty have short-term contracts compared to 48% who have permanent appointments.  “As there has been no change in this ratio for the past 10 years, this is a structural problem,” Chandra said.

Temporary contracts “are not a personal choice of faculty,” she said. Rather, their use reflects “the preferences of [some] administrators, who choose to use precarity as a tool.” Indeed, the CCPA study reveals variations in the ratio of contract to tenured (and tenure track) faculty even among post-secondary institutions in the same province.[2] Given the heavy price of precarity on faculty and students, and its adverse effects on the quality of education, the public must demand an end to the unfair, unequal treatment of contract faculty.  Part of the solution lies in increased government funding, which would reduce the incentive of administrators to cut labour costs.  Such funding, however, needs to be accompanied by regulations restricting the use of temporary contracts and mandating equal pay for equal work, regardless of faculty contract status. 

In other news, FPSE President George Davison chose not to seek re-election. His successor as president is Terri Van Steinburg, who had served with Davison as Secretary-Treasurer since 2015.  She in turn was succeeded by Sean Parkinson, an economics instructor at UFV.  All three were acclaimed.  Other incumbent members of the Executive, Frank Cosco and Leslie Molnar, were also acclaimed.

Next year’s AGM will be held in Vancouver. It will mark the 50th anniversary of FPSE and its predecessor federations.  With that in mind, delegates approved the expenditure of up to $100,000 to fund the FPSE History Project, an undertaking that will document notable events in the history of collective action by post-secondary educators in BC.

[2] For example, in BC 69.8% of faculty at Capilano University are on temporary contract compared to only 26.5% at KPU.  While Langara was not included in the study, the relatively low proportion of contract faculty (in regular studies) reflects the strong language on regularization that has formed part of our collective agreements since the 1990s.