Solidarity was the theme of this year’s CAUT negotiator’s conference and the discussions were highly relevant to the BCIT FSA. From the keynote speaker to the closing discussion, the topics reflected the realities and the interests of the FSA and its members.
The keynote speaker was JP Hornick, chair of the union bargaining team in last year’s Ontario college teacher’s strike. Hornick gave a compelling account of the steps their union, the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union (OPSEU), went through in their successful job action. First, they defined and gained support for important and winnable issues. Then they mobilied thousands of college instructors across the province. Hornick advocated for faculty associations (FAs) to set large goals and then, ‘let your people run toward those goals in a way that makes sense for them.’ OPSEU’s key strategy was to define a limited number of objectives that reflected member interests and were easy to understand. OPSEU then supported those objectives with strong internal and external communication strategies.
Much of the forum addressed how faculty associations represent and bargain for their diverse memberships. While the FSA’s membership is broader than most, many faculty associations include some other job classifications and limited-term Contract Academic Staff. Speakers addressed the legal responsibilities of unions to represent their entire membership. They offered practical examples of how this has been done in challenging circumstances. There were also strategy discussions about how to approach bargaining scenarios that sometimes seem to emphasize the differences between our members rather than the things that we share. One session challenged participants to look beyond our own associations and consider scenarios where bargaining by other unions has a direct impact on us.
All of these topics are familiar to the FSA. The chance to work through these challenges with colleagues from across the country provided a number of insights and tactics for us to consider as we begin our preparations for next’s year’s negotiations. We are not alone, and we are all better off when we work together and leave nobody behind. To that end, the forum provided the opportunity for negotiators from BC’s biggest faculty bargaining units to share knowledge and build relationships. We’ll continue to work on those relationships and draw on the expertise at CAUT as we get ready to bargain.
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