While many FSA members do not have a break over the summer, we know that the fall term does feel like a new year for so many, and it usually brings with it some changes in your work areas. This year, the fall term both feels ‘new’ but also incredibly unpredictable. Since we closed the FSA office on March 16th, we know that your workplace has dramatically changed and that planning for the fall has taken on an entirely different meaning in 2020 than in years past.
In addition to our weekly bulletin to members, we have sent out a series of statements on various topics related to the pandemic and your working conditions. We have had over 40 meetings since March with BCIT leadership and the BCGEU components. We have had about a dozen additional meetings with BCIT Safety, Security & Emergency Management (SSEM) focused on safety. While we haven’t always agreed with every step BCIT has taken during the pandemic, we do believe we have taken every opportunity to advocate for, and on behalf of, the FSA membership.
We also repeatedly reminded all of you that you have rights protected by your Collective Agreement, and that a pandemic – while creating unprecedented situations for most of us – is not an opportunity for those rights to be violated. We are also focused on ensuring that any plans that BCIT is making for a limited return to campus prioritize the health and safety of BCIT faculty, staff, and students.
The Road Ahead
In the midst of all of this, your Bargaining Team managed to reach an agreement which you, the membership, overwhelmingly voted to accept. This agreement includes many improved benefits, including a pool to provide, for the first time, paid sick leave to members teaching in Part-Time Studies, something even more evident at a time when we are thinking about our and our loved ones’ health. Under our Interim Co-Executive Directors, we addressed the severe understaffing issues that the FSA faced in the summer of 2019. And in June of this year, we reached a full complement of members on the FSA board.
We also witnessed, in grief, as violence and discrimination increased for Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour (IBPOC) folks here in the Lower Mainland and around North America; exacerbating the already entrenched systemic impacts of racism and the disproportionate impact of the pandemic for groups of people for whom barriers exist.
All of this work is critical as we move forward.
This fall term and the start of the 2020/21 academic year will be different from last month, the month before, and certainly the year before. We encourage all FSA members to adhere to public and BCIT safety protocols, be patient and generous with each other, and to take the time to consider your working rights as you undertake a term like no other.
Familiarize yourself with BCIT’s COVID-19 Employee Resources and FAQ on the Loop and if there are questions you think should be answered there, please call upon BCIT to add them and let us know how we can advocate on your behalf. As you check out the OHS Sharespace, we encourage you to raise any concerns about your working conditions – on or off campus – through BCIT’s Health & Safety teams.
This has been a challenging time at the FSA and for the entire BCIT community. However, we have also been reminded in recent months about the importance of being connected to each other and to our shared community at BCIT. We are excited to be entering the fall term with a full staff complement at the FSA for the first time in a long time, and we are very grateful for the leadership our Co-Interim Executive Directors, Maria Angerilli and Kyla Epstein, have provided over the last year. With the hiring of a new Executive Director we look forward to building on the work the FSA has done for members for close to 50 years.
While 2020 has been a trying year on a number of fronts, it has been incredibly fulfilling to work on behalf of our membership. However, none of that work is possible without your feedback and participation in your Union. We are only as strong as the passion, feedback, support, and engagement you provide for our work on your behalf. We encourage you to stay connected with us, to share your feedback, and to look for opportunities to become involved through committees, Tech Rep meetings, or our General Meetings.
We close by wishing you a happy Labour Day and final long weekend of summer. As we celebrate Labour Day, it is a good opportunity to reflect on what we have accomplished together in these uncertain times, and how we might continue to lend our voice to the most vulnerable amongst us.
Wishing you a fulfilling and healthy Fall,
Colin Jones, President
Michael Conlon, Executive Director