FSA members face many pressing needs. Our salaries are stagnant compared to those of the industries we support. The demands of our already heavy workloads continue to increase. Internal and external constraints on our work continue to grow further limiting our independence, flexibility, and job satisfaction. In the worst cases, our ability to meet the needs of students and employers is compromised.
Without doubt, wages are the biggest issue. Increases in the last couple of years made up none of the buying power lost in the preceding years with no increases. Steadily and dramatically, we are falling behind the industries from which we draw faculty and staff. As an example, according to the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC, a BCIT Instructor makes about 25% less than an engineer in the private sector with a similar level of responsibility. Private sector engineers can also expect better benefit packages.
The bargaining mandates set by the provincial government provide no latitude to address the specific needs of institutions like BCIT. The government insists on a firm link between the top end of the faculty salary scales at all colleges, institutes, and the special purpose teaching universities. At the same time, the bottom end of our scales have actually fallen further behind. We have a lower bottom rate and more steps than the common scale for Faculty. Along with very restrictive salary placement rules under our collective agreement, FSA Faculty will often start at lower rates of pay than at other institutions and take longer to get to the top of scale than their colleagues at the colleges. If we’re going to be tied to the common scale at the top end, shouldn’t we also get the benefits it delivers at the bottom end?
The disparities worsen in Part-Time Studies. Few other BC institutions pay PTS instruction on a separate salary scale that limits their pay to 60% of what a regular Instructor teaching the same course would make. That’s even before factoring in the dramatic difference in paid vacation, the lack of access to PD and sick leave, and the difficulty accessing benefits. Almost every other institution in our sector allows them access to regular employment based on years of successful service.
The bargaining mandates set by the government have also entirely disregarded our other pay scales. When the AI classification was introduced in 1989, AIs made 82% of the Faculty at top of scale. Today, they make less than 75% of what Faculty make. In real dollars, the gap has grown by almost 85%. Despite that gap, BCIT management has insisted that AIs can be assigned just about anything that Faculty do. Tech Staff pay has suffered similarly although their duties are better protected.
Despite a worsening fiscal picture, BCIT is now delivering 110% of the seats for which it is funded. That productivity is being delivered on the backs of the faculty and staff who see no corresponding increase in rewards for their sacrifice. BCIT’s recent budget reflects this. About 20 regular jobs with regular pay and security that happened to be vacant are going unfilled while BCIT plans to expand offerings using low-cost auxiliary employees with no job security. The cost of working at BCIT continues to grow.
Workplace stress grows where our members’ rights are less well protected. . AIs in some departments take on more instructional responsibilities and Tech Staff take on more responsibilities in labs. Instructors face larger set sizes and more pressure to do administration, curriculum revision and program development on top of full instructional loads. Researchers face increasing pressure to deliver funding contracts at the expense of staying current and connected in their fields. Faculty and Tech Staff in Student Services and Learner Services face more pressure to meet increasingly demanding targets at the expense of regular program revisions, short-term development, and planning.
These are the disparities we seek to address in this round of bargaining. We are looking to work with management to find ways of resolving such problems within the mandate and within BCIT’s means. We must also recognize that the collective agreement can’t resolve what is largely a political problem. The government’s agenda of withdrawing funding from post-secondary education while increasingly relying on the skills training we provide is utterly unsustainable. FSA members will be among the first to suffer as that strategy collapses, followed by the students we teach, the industries we serve, and the economy we fuel. Achieving a more sustainable approach to post-secondary education and resolving our employment issues will require us to take action beyond bargaining.Leave a reply →