The evolution of the BCIT Faculty and Staff Association began in 1964, the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s first year of operation, as a social committee for all Institute employees.
In 1965, it became the BCIT Staff Society and its early activities involved organizing social events such as a golf tournament and Christmas parties.
In 1967, the Staff Society began its evolution into a union when it first represented the staff in the hiring of the new Institute principal. Over the next few years its mandate grew as it began to represent the staff in discussions with the administration about salaries and benefits, working conditions, reclassification, educational leaves, parking and the Institute’s planning committee. By 1970, despite the fact that the Staff Society was not a certified union, this work resulted in a negotiated agreement on Faculty Personnel Policies with BCIT’s administration — a 20-page document that served the same purpose as a collective agreement.
The well-being of BCIT as a unique educational institution in British Columbia was then — as it is now for the FSA — at the heart of the Staff Society’s work. It focused on developing and maintaining a high standard of academic excellence here at BCIT, working to maintain the quality of programs, the acceptance of graduates by industry, and to attract and retain highly-qualified faculty and staff.
In 1972, with the prospect of a decentralization of post-secondary education in the province, the Staff Society was at the forefront of the push for legislation giving the Institute its own board of governors. These changes led the Staff Society to official status, first organizing under the Societies Act in 1973 and then to seek certification as an independent labour union for all BCIT employees.
The Staff Society was certified as the bargaining agent for the faculty and technical staff at BCIT in August 1974. The certification included teaching faculty, non-teaching (specialized) faculty in the library and other areas, technical staff who worked in labs and Student Services, staff in Computer Resources, the Learning Resources Unit, and Assistant Instructors. BCIT’s Support Staff employees were separated from the Staff Society by the Labour Relations Board. The first collective agreement was signed in June 1975 and incorporated such fixtures of BCIT as the three-hour break and joint BCIT-Staff Society committees for recruitment selection and placement.
During this period of change, the Staff Society hired its first staff member, a part-time secretary, and began publishing its newsletter.
In 1986, BCIT amalgamated with the Pacific Vocational Institute (PVI), the provincial trades school also located on the Burnaby campus with BCIT. There were considerable negotiations at that time to meld the four existing unions into three. In addition to the FSA, BCIT has two British Columbia Government Employees Union locals (one covering vocational instructors and another covering support staff). Since then, Pacific Marine Training Institute in North Vancouver and the International English Training Centre at Newton College have joined BCIT, bringing new members to the FSA.
With all this expansion and increasing member diversity, in 1994 the Staff Society hired its first professional grievance officer to take on the work which had previously been carried out by the executive. In 1996, the name of the union was changed to the Faculty and Staff Association to better reflect the diverse nature of the union’s members. The FSA now has a full complement of staff members engaged in strategic, operational, labour relations, communications and administrative work.
Since certification, the FSA has taken to the picket lines three times to protect BCIT’s educational quality when negotiations became deadlocked. In 1989, the strike lasted for eight days, resulting in the creation of the Assistant Instructor classification. The 1999 strike over class sizes and workload saw six days of rotating strikes by different departments followed by escalation to a full campus-wide strike for five days. In 2012, four separate days of strike action were required to protect salaries and benefits.
Representation. Negotiation. Advocacy.
The FSA continues to deal with member’s concerns through the grievance and arbitration process and by ensuring that the terms and conditions of its Collective Agreement are available to its members and respected by the Institute’s management. The staff deals with labour relations issues while an elected Board sets policy and deals with lobbying and government relations.