Bargaining Updates: FSA and Provincial Public-Sector Negotiations
We’re beginning to see momentum build toward collective bargaining with the Institute this fall. FSA Representatives now know that BCIT’s bargaining group will include Colin Gibson, Partner with the employment-side law firm Harris and Company, as their Chief Spokesperson, along with the following group members:
- Stephanie Low, Manager, Labour Relations
- Anita Sidhu; Manager, Human Resources
- Tara Marwick, Labour Relations
- Jennifer Figner, Academic Operations
- Phil Ramer, Operations Management
- Douglas Bellamy, Technology Operations
More importantly, we now have some initial bargaining dates, beginning in late September. Your FSA Bargaining Team is pleased that the process will formally begin soon. Yet bargaining a new Collective Agreement is frequently a protracted exercise. Our Bargaining Team and Collective Agreement Committee will be in touch throughout to ensure that FSA members are kept up-to-date and involved where possible.
The recent struggles of BC General Employees’ Union (GEU) members to bargain a collective agreement is a good reminder of just how arduous bargaining can be–especially relevant because the GEU will almost certainly set the template for our bargaining process. You have likely heard by now that negotiations between the provincial government and GEU have broken down. The GEU issued 72-hour notice of job action Friday August 12, 2022 and pickets went up at four locations across the province on Monday. Wages are the primary sticking point in this round of bargaining, with the GEU demanding cost of living adjustment (COLA) protections that tie member salaries to inflation. The most recent offer from the BC government, after talks broke down for the first time in April, included a wage increase of 10% over 3 years plus a signing bonus, a significantly better offer than the insulting 5.75% over 3 years initial proposal. The provincial government nevertheless failed to include COLA protections in the latest offer, leading to GEU bargaining committee rejection on the basis that a 3.33% annual increase would still amount to a significant pay cut for members given that inflation is well above 7%.
As we’ve previously noted, what happens at the GEU table is directly relevant for FSA members. In all likelihood, the GEU will settle the first significant public-sector agreement in BC during this round of bargaining, establishing the wage pattern imposed on all other public-sector unions in the province. Almost 400,000 public-sector workers, including our members, are bargaining contracts with the provincial government this year. Unlike other provinces, however, there is no free and fair public-sector bargaining in BC. Instead of direct negotiation between union and employer, government tightly controls the public-sector bargaining process through the Public Sector Employers’ Council (PSEC) and, in provincial post-secondary, the Post-Secondary Employers’ Association (PSEA).
For their part, the GEU will engage job action on a strategic continuum, from work to rule on one end (e.g. refusing overtime and rigid enforcement of the Collective Agreement) to a full, continuous strike on the other. In the early stages, typical job action includes rotating strikes at select workplaces, escalating over the coming weeks and months if no deal is reached.
It is also important for FSA members to note that the GEU job action notice was issued only for workers in the public-service bargaining unit. Our GEU union siblings on campus are part of separate and distinct sets of negotiations not included in the current strike notice.
Colin Jones, FSA Chief Negotiator and President
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