Additional various updates provided in the FSA’s weekly all-members bulletin.
Colin Jones (FSA President) and Michael Conlon (FSA Executive Director)
There have been several announcements in recent weeks regarding Fall 2021, including the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training (AEST)Return-to-Campus (RTC) Primer, BCIT’s RTC Info Bulletin, and this week’s BCIT Fall Term Planning update. The FSA, along with the BCGEU units on campus, continue to receive regular updates from BCIT leadership and on Monday we participated, along with leaders from across BC’s post-secondary institutions and unions with workers in post-secondary, in a Post-Secondary Town Hall (link to recording) with Dr. Bonnie Henry and her team.
The message we are receiving is clear: our world will look very different in September 2021 to what it looks like today and Dr. Henry is envisioning a return to ‘near normal’ by this fall. Some of the current safety measures and protocols that we have all become used to over the past 15 months will no longer be needed and that can be hard to imagine today. Read more.
The projection for a return to near full operations on campus is premised on a couple of assumptions, including the opportunity to receive a 2nd vaccine dose by the end of the summer for our student, faculty and staff population, and a significant decrease in the daily case count. Though Dr. Henry has a positive outlook for the fall, she was clear that we will living with COVID-19 for some time to come. While the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) has the most-informed predictions for what September will look like, no one truly knows. The announcements from the Ministry and BCIT have been timed with the intention of giving you and your colleagues time to plan for a full return to campus this fall. We have been informed that post-secondary guidelines will be further revised in June and go into effect in August.
Public health in BC is – in their own words – moving from “blunt tools” to “surgical instruments” and they emphasized the importance of rapid communication, testing, and temporary controls should an outbreak occur on campus. They are focused on reducing hospitalizations and deaths and were clear that we are moving into the next stage of “living with” the virus in our communities.
BCIT is a unique educational institution in British Columbia, you – along with your managers and BCGEU colleagues – have always worked hard to ensure students are industry-ready. Your programs and services should continue to focus on delivering on this utilizing delivery models that are best-suited for BCIT’s commitments, pedagogically sound, and safety-focused.
The FSA’s Role
We are prepared to do what we have done since day one, and reiterated in our March 12th statement: advocating to ensure BCIT makes safety a priority while honouring your rights to Departmental decision-making. If the PHO’s current predictions are accurate, it is very likely that most faculty and staff will be expected to return to work on campus in the fall. If their forecast does not come to fruition, we will hold BCIT and the PHO accountable for adapting their plans.
We are also working closely with post-secondary union colleagues across BC and have joined them in a shared response to the province’s plans for September.
Notwithstanding pandemic related measures, our recent round of bargaining led to the formation of a union/management committee to explore the possibilities of working remotely on an ongoing basis. The committee’s work with BCIT continues and we have seen proof that your work over the last year opens up new possibilities for remote work moving forward.
We know, from hearing from members, that the news of plans for fall 2021 will be welcome to some and worrisome for others. We acknowledge that some folks may feel anxious and that there is a variety of levels of comfort with being back on campus (including for those currently on campus in some capacity). Dr. Henry did acknowledge an element of ‘cognitive dissonance’ when planning for a full return to campus amidst today’s stricter health guidelines. However, as noted, their intention is to provide time to prepare both logistically and psychologically with the next phase of this pandemic.
We will continue to relay individual member concerns to BCIT. There will, of course, be individual health circumstances that may call for accommodation, but those circumstances would likely be limited and evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
We take comfort from the fact that September is still over three months away and, if we’ve learned one thing during this pandemic, things can change quickly. Dr. Henry struck an optimistic tone and we truly hope that the start of the 2021/22 academic year is one where we can safely be on campus with all of you – we’ve missed you! However, please also know that we will continue to be vigilant in coming months to ensure that the commitments made by Dr. Henry and her team for a safe return to campus are met, and that your concerns are heard both by the government and BCIT.
Back in 2020 we posted fairly regularly about pandemic related matters but more recently we have relied on BCIT (and here) to push out the information you’ve needed while working in the current conditions. With the announcement from the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training on March 8th, along with recent updates from BCIT, we thought it was time to circle back to members with a few reminders that we think are important!
We know this is a time of more questions than answers – for us, all of you, and for BCIT in its fall planning – and we trust that many things will change between now and September. We were reassured to hear this week from BCIT leadership that they are working to ensure that Departments have a sense of Fall 2021 by late spring, so as to avoid last minute planning pressure. We are continuing our weekly calls with BCIT leadership and the two BCGEU units, and continue to push for community-wide communication for you. BCIT, as it did prior to the pandemic, has the autonomy to set operations that serve its unique model, and your Departments are part of deciding how that happens in your programs and work areas. This remains true for Fall 2021 (within the province’s safety protocols, of course!).
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a hundred times. Since this started, we have been clear with BCIT: your work must not go unpaid. All Departments should be assessing their workloads to respond to the change in the nature of your work as you plan for increased face-to-face delivery.
We also strongly advise you to track your work and communicate any changes to your Program Head/Coordinator and related manager. If you have a serious concern – now or even at a later date – documentation will help the FSA to support you in seeking a resolution to those concerns.
Need a tracking document? We have a template for you!
As BCIT – and that includes your Departments – start to plan for ramping up face-to-face instruction and service delivery we are here to remind you that you have a right to be included in that planning.
Familiarize yourself with Article 14 of the Collective Agreement, review the slides on Departmental Rights & Responsibilities from November 2018 Tech Rep meeting (login required), and make sure you are familiar with our FAQs on specific topics. Despite the unique situation the Institute is facing in the Fall you retain your decision making rights under Article 14. If you feel management in your department is not respecting these rights, please connect with the FSA labour relations team immediately.
If you have concerns about individual work assignments, Article 8 is the key resource. Article 8.8.1 has a non-exhaustive list of factors that can be considered when Departments assign work in accordance with plans developed under Article 14. The fact that its non-exhaustive means you can incorporate other concerns. Disputes about workloading are resolved by Departments using Article 8.8.3 and subsequent articles.
We will continue to advocate for your safe working conditions under WorkSafe BC requirements. While we have no reason at this time to believe that BCIT will plan for a scenario that will put you at an unreasonable risk, it is important to remember that you have the right to refuse unsafe working conditions.
We have previously emphasized to BCIT that, in addition to safety being paramount, the protocols have to be realistically implementable by those working in the areas. This remains true as planning for Fall 2021 takes place. The development, or adaption, of safety plans for your areas should involve FSA and BCGEU workers. You – along with your AD or related manager – need to plan and decide how the work will get done within the current (and future) pandemic circumstances in ways that adhere to safety protocols and also meet the realities of your Departments.
While not truly “post-pandemic”, we recognize that we are moving into another stage of your work under a pandemic. It remains to be seen what September 2021 will truly look like in terms of cases, vaccination levels, and community transmission but we do know that it will likely be different from today. We are excited by the thought of being able to see you in non-Zoom land but we also know that Zoom has, for some, made it easier to connect with us. We will work to keep those connections, even as our own work shifts back to the FSA physical office in SE16 on the Burnaby Campus.
As always: be safe, take care, and reach out if needed!
We understand the effort involved in interpreting and adjusting practices based on new orders from BC’s Provincial Health Office. We have been working closely with BCIT over the last week as they work to operationalize the orders. We have continued to advocate for clear and consistent communication from BCIT to you. We have also ensured that we are in regular communication with our counterparts in the BCGEU units to recognize the variety of scenarios under which work is occurring at BCIT. Please do not hesitate to raise any concerns with health, safety, and cleaning protocols to your direct manager and to BCIT’s Safety, Security, and Emergency Management team. If their reply still has you concerned, let us know.
In previous FSA posts (also found on this page) related to COVID-19 we have covered various topics including staying safe at work, FSA services, ensuring that members are paid for changing your work due to the pandemic, PTS contracts, and responses to BCIT’s announcements. We encourage members to take some time to review that content along with the public-facing BCIT FAQ and the employee-only BCIT FAQ on the Loop.
We want to clarify something we have started to hear. We have heard that decisions and actions being taken by BCIT are a result of having “negotiated” an agreement with the unions on campus. Unlike some post-secondary institutions around Canada, BCIT believes a negotiated Letter of Understanding (LOU) around changes being implemented is unnecessary. We disagree. In the absence of an LOU that would modify parts of the Collective Agreement (CA), all your rights under the Collective Agreement stand.
This means that BCIT must adhere to all the rights in the CA including but not limited to: executing its duty of consultation, respecting the rights of Departmental decision making, providing OT if you are required to work while on vacation, ensuring that all work is workloaded, and much more!
With respect to materials you might be preparing to deliver in a remote/online format, Article 7.4.1 of the CA states that materials you introduce—including your lecture materials, demonstrations and audio visual material—are your intellectual property. As the instructor, what you say and show is yours, generally speaking. (Exceptions exist where, as one example, you are paid on a contract specifically to produce a course that BCIT will own the rights to.)
You can, if you like, be clear with the Institute by sending an email to your AD when the time comes, that you are the owner of any material recorded and that they do not have the right to use it in future without your permission and must destroy it at your request. Similarly, you’ll want to warn students in your classes that they cannot record things, or keep them, without facing academic or other penalties. (Exceptions to this should be permitted to accommodate students with disabilities, provided they have contacted Accessibility Services.) The FSA’s April 17th weekly e-bulletin provided some sample language from The Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association (WLUFA) that members can use as a resource on this matter.
If there are concerns about broader Department planning—such as determining objectives around safety or plans for summer vacation—Article 14 applies. Article 14.3 (and subsequent) provides direction for a method of dispute resolution where members of a Department want to dispute the plan.
If however planning is complete and you have concerns about individual work assignments, Article 8 is the key resource. Article 8.8.1 has a non-exhaustive list of factors that can be considered when Departments assign work in accordance with plans developed under Article 14. The fact that its non-exhaustive means you can incorporate other concerns, including some of the ones members have raised to us over the past few weeks, such as limitations due to provincial health orders that may consequently generate more work for Departments. We encourage you to have a look at Question 3 from our FAQ about OT & Compensation on our website.
Disputes about workloading are resolved by Departments using Article 8.8.3 and subsequent articles.
We have emphasized to BCIT that in addition to safety being paramount that the protocols have to be realistically implementable by those working in the areas. The risk assessments should involve FSA & BCGEU members. Embedded in this is the idea that any work you need to do to implement the safety assessments should be planned and workloaded by your Department. You folks – along with your AD – would need to plan and decide how the work will get done within the limited personnel and resources you have in your Department.
Interested in what other areas have done for their Risk Assessments? BCIT OHS is posting all completed RAs in the OHS Sharespace.
We have received a number of questions from members that we would love to have answers for but are really BCIT’s to answer. Have the risk assessments for return to campus plans taken into considerations the realities of your work and classrooms spaces and practices? Will PPE be provided by BCIT? What happens if a 2nd wave of coronavirus hits BC? What happens if a localized outbreak happens at BCIT? Please make sure you are sending questions to email@example.com and push BCIT to add them to their FAQs so your colleagues can see any answers you are getting.
We can imagine that many of you are wondering what the announcements by the BC government on Wednesday mean for BCIT and for the FSA. We certainly are! Since this pandemic started we have been keeping in regular contact with BCIT and will continue to do so while we get more information about the implementation of BC’s Restart Plan. We are also working internally to see if this will mean any changes to the FSA’s current remote operations. All our decisions will be guided by the Provincial Health Officer’s direction, BCIT’s operational decisions, and the well-being of our members and FSA staff. We encourage all FSA members to familiarize themselves with BC’s Restart Plan and the BC COVID-19 Go-Forward Management Strategy.
FSA Members: We know that yesterday’s email message from BCIT (Update for our valued employees on direction from government) may be reassuring to some and unsettling for others depending on a variety of factors in your own Departments. We want to reiterate that under Article 18 of your Collective Agreement, we are entitled to significant notice, 3 months minimum, before any layoffs occur. There are also a series of mitigations that must be explored during that notice period to minimize loss of jobs. We will be advocating for you in our discussions with BCIT to explore creative options and to ensure that the impact on our membership is minimized. We promise to keep in touch with you, through working with your Tech Reps and through our communications channels. In these stressful times, we encourage you to take care of yourself and reach out for help if needed.
On March 30th, BCIT sent an email communication to folks working in PTS and Industry Services (Update for PTS and Industry Services community from Jennifer Figner, AVP, Academic) regarding the provision of PTS Administration contracts for members teaching in Part-Time Studies (PTS).
BCIT is offering to pay based on a formula of 1 hour of PTS Administration time for every 3 hours of class for the work of converting PTS and Industry Services classes to online.
As well, for those that were required, in mid-March, to convert their last weeks of PTS or Industry Services classes to online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Institute is offering a 5-hour PTS Administration contract on top of their 1 to 3 formula. This 5-hour sum will not be payable for conversion of PTS classes beginning in April or later. Only the 1 to 3 formula will apply for conversions in future.
Though many of our members in PTS and Industry Services will benefit from this payment—and we acknowledge BCIT for their announcement—it will not be enough to compensate some of you for your work.
The FSA’s view is that, for this often disadvantaged group, BCIT’s welcome announcement may only be a deposit on a larger sum to be paid later. To guard future claims for compensation, we ask that members carefully record the time they spend on conversion of courses to online.
We have indicated to BCIT that we are reserving the right to grieve under your Collective Agreement, and will continue our fruitful dialogue with them regarding the pandemic and its effect on members. If we are unable to reach a mutually agreeable solution on further payments for those members in PTS that can prove they have worked more than the BCIT formula contemplates, we may pursue more formal claims.
This approach, we believe, is the best method of ensuring the work of BCIT goes on, that student success is enhanced, while at the same time protecting the rights of members and building on the strong relationships we have with BCIT leadership in this time of uncertainty.
We encourage PTS Instructors to contact your Associate Dean to let them know the realities of the work you have to do to convert your face-to-face courses to online delivery.
Since we last reached out to you on March 17th, so much has changed for all of us. We know how hard you’ve been working to adapt to the constantly changing circumstances and we can’t express enough how much we appreciate the work you are doing, the ways that you are reaching out to us and to each other, and the efforts you are making to keep yourselves and your communities healthy and safe.
As your union we are working with BCIT to ensure their planning takes into account your Collective Agreement and your rights. We have established working channels between our FSA staff and senior leaders at BCIT, ensuring that we stay informed and that they hear your concerns.
Earlier this afternoon, BCIT issued a notice which indicated pay would be continued until the end of April. Though it may not feel like long enough notice, it is the BC Government’s initial announcement about protecting the pay and jobs of people in the public service. This is not a formal notice of impending closures of programs or schools. This was meant, we believe, to stabilize the public sector and the economy, and give the provincial government time to respond to the changing environment, including waiting on announcements from the federal government. We anticipate further announcements in future.
Having some clarity – even when it isn’t all good news – can be reassuring for some while for others it can just lead to even more questions.
Though there are no absolute guarantees in a changing landscape, we can say with certainty that to date we have heard no talk of closures of programs or schools, and that we would expect, as defined in our collective agreement, a significant amount of notice if that were to happen. We continue to meet with BCIT leaders daily, and also reaching out to our contacts in government and the BC labour movement in order to ensure our voices are heard.
The realities of the COVID-19 situation are having an impact across the globe, across the country, across our sector, and, indeed, across BCIT. The message you saw from Ana Lopez this afternoon is consistent with messaging in post secondary and across the public sector.
Since this situation started the FSA has, and will continue, to advocate for the best possible outcomes for our members.
Since this started, we have been clear with BCIT: your work must not go unpaid. All Departments should be assessing their workloads to respond to the change in the nature of your work.
As your work changes due to COVID-19, we strongly advise you to track it and communicate these changes to your Program Head/Coordinator and related manager. If you have a serious concern at a later date, such as overtime hours worked, you must have documentation.
In addition to all the work that has arisen directly related to COVID-19, we know that there is a lot of “business as usual” work underway. Committees and Departments are working on matters that require decisions, all of you are continuing your core work of supporting students in different ways, and you continue to have your own needs as workers.
We have advised BCIT that all Departments should consider how/if COVID-19 changes the parameters of your work. If consultation is required, how do members engage in meaningful consultation while dealing with this crisis? Do timelines need to be changed? Do methods of feedback and input need to be altered?
If you believe a change in “business as usual” needs to take place, please tell your managers and don’t hesitate to let BCIT Human Resources know if you don’t see reasonable changes. You can also contact us – as you always can – if you believe your Collective Agreement rights are being violated. Now, more than ever, we need to ensure that good decisions are being made, since these decisions set a model for the way forward.
This message is just one of many that you’ve received from us, BCIT, and your own Departments and programs. We know it can be overwhelming to keep up with information – especially when inundated with news and announcements from government bodies. We are striving to stay as informed as possible – including having daily conference calls with BCIT’s leadership and the BCGEU unions.
We know that there is so much more information you all want, and may need. We have called upon BCIT and our contacts in government to tell the BC Ministry of Advanced Education that the post-secondary sector needs to hear more. Naturally, many folks are concerned about areas covered by the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education (K-12), but our ministry needs to get clear messages out – not just to BCIT, but to everyone who works and studies in BC public post-secondary institutions.
The FSA staff are also working on additional FAQs to get more information to you about areas in your Collective Agreement that might be of specific importance under these circumstances.
We will continue to communicate with you – whether you hear from us or we hear from you, we are here if needed.
Over the past few days we have connected with dozens of members. We have heard how members are pulling together to support each other and provide the best possible educational support for BCIT’s students. We have heard from members who are thinking about how to support each other in practical ways, if folks in the BCIT community end up becoming sick or unable to leave their homes.
As FSA members, each of you may have different employment protections under the Collective Agreement. We are aware that some FSA members do not have access to sick leave or may not have sick days in their bank. We are aware that some FSA members do not have guaranteed employment past their current contract. As always, the FSA will continue to advocate for all members – no matter what your personal circumstances are. As always, we know that you care about your students, your colleagues, and public education in BC. We are proud to be your union and hope that you will continue to engage with us as we work through this time.
Effective immediately, the FSA office is closed for in-person service. Any FSA members who need to speak to an FSA staff person can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or 604.432.8695.
The FSA staff will be utilizing email, telephone, and potentially WebEx to conduct our work. There may be a delay in response time or some technology hiccups; we ask for your patience and understanding as we seek to shift to alternative service methods.
For members with open FSA case files (e.g. grievances), we are working internally and with our BCIT counterparts on how we will handle existing open cases. These will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
FSA events (e.g. Tech Rep meetings, general meetings, etc.) will either be cancelled or moved online. Please watch for calendar invite updates. At this point, we will likely hold the April 22nd general membership meeting online.
Upcoming FSA elections: we are able to run our 2020 elections fully online. Please watch your bcit.ca account for the call for nominations, candidate announcements, and voting information.
We have received a number of specific questions from members about working conditions. For some of these questions we have referred members back to their BCIT manager and email@example.com. This is not because we don’t want to support you, it is because some of your questions are for BCIT to answer. If we do redirect you, and you have concerns about their responses – as pertaining to your working conditions – please don’t hesitate to reach out to us again.
We have also received some general questions from you about the honouring, and issuing, of Part-Time Studies (PTS) contracts, being compensated for expenses incurred by working at home, duties of consultation, accreditation standards, and how moving classes online impacts non-teaching members.
We are also aware that some programs have unique circumstances (e.g. International Student Entry Program/ISEP with 6-week terms, programs with clinical components, etc.) and have told BCIT’s leadership that managers should be providing clear information to members who work in those areas.
We are working with BCIT to get you more clarity on these, and other, concerns but if you have a specific case of being asked to conduct work that you believe violates your Collective Agreement rights, please contact us.
FSA members: as many of you prepare to return to work tomorrow we wanted to build upon the statement we put out on Friday (see March 13 update).
Post-secondary institutions across Canada are taking a variety of approaches to responding to COVID-19. Pertaining to us, BCIT management issued information late last night that provides direction towards a shift to online class delivery and modified working conditions.
We learned late Friday that the Deans’ Council met and that many of our teaching members have received emails from their academic leadership indicating that some could or have “selected” to transfer classes in their Schools to online platforms. We have also learned that at least one Department will be transferring fully online for tomorrow.
Moving online temporarily may well be the right decision for your Department but it is important that you are provided the (paid) time and resources you may need to make that switch. FSA recommends that members carefully calculate the amount of time required to perform an online conversion of their class. As well, members need to consider the amount of time and effort involved in teaching online. We have heard from members that online classes can often require greater time and effort than teaching in the classroom.
Our members, generally, are protected by a Collective Agreement that clearly restricts overtime for contact-hour type work, and has significant restrictions on raising the amount of non-contact hour work. We look to support BCIT, all of you, and your students in this time of rapid and uncertain change, but not at the expense of the health and rights of our membership.
For Auxiliary Employees, your PTS contracts cannot be unilaterally altered without your consent, and should come with additional compensation in order to move a classroom onto the internet. Ensure that, before you begin work on a conversion to online teaching, BCIT has committed to fair hours at the contractual rate for the planned work.
For all FSA members, Departmental decision-making is a crucial part of your rights. Departments should be deciding how to respond to these unusual and unfortunate circumstances. This includes determining what work is required for meeting objectives and how to distribute and load the work.
We will continue to communicate with you as needed but we are also communicating with BCIT so that they provide you with the information you need during this time. If you have a “Q” for their FAQ, please send it directly to Glen Magel and Chris Hudson.
We want to remind all of you that you are covered by WorkSafe BC. Here are a few resources for you.
The FSA has been actively monitoring this situation and responding to member concerns. FSA staff are meeting internally and our leadership is in regular communication with BCIT senior management. We are aware that steps taken by the Province and BCIT to respond to COVID-19 may impact members in different ways based on your category of employment and will advocate for approaches based on equity. We are also reminding BCIT that faculty and staff need to be adequately resourced in order to move to online or alternative methods of work. We encourage members who have questions about the practicalities of performing your work to raise concerns directly to your manager.
In the past week, we’ve been able to meet with BCIT’s leadership and we are confident they are making thoughtful, proactive decisions to prepare our community for the local implications of a global pandemic. In this constantly changing landscape, what may have appeared to some as an overreaction yesterday, may feel woefully insufficient today. Given the speed at which these issues are developing, our small but committed leadership team is working hard to support the FSA around business continuity planning and health & safety considerations, as we strive to remain current in very fluid landscape. Our primary concern is to keep our staff and members safe, as we decide how to best serve and guide our membership through these extraordinary events.
The situation is developing rapidly: we urge members to read all notices from BCIT and check updates on their Breaking News page. The FSA is also a member of CAUT who has a statement online specifically pertaining to the post-secondary sector.
We also want to remind members that there is no requirement to hold Department meetings face-to-face. Department members may hold meetings by conference call, web platform, or even email exchange. Remember to invite all FSA members and your manager to these meetings. For a reminder of the scope of Departmental rights, see our article in the FSA Voice, January 2020 edition (p.6).
Finally, please take care of yourselves. We’re all managing uncertainty and these uncertain times have produced difficult challenges for many people. None of us can care for our families, our colleagues, our members, or our communities if we do not, first, care for ourselves.
The FSA is committed to diversity and inclusion. We are aware of some of the ways that the public discourse on this matter have reinforced xenophobic and racist presumptions. We acknowledge the negative impact this may have on some community members, and remind everyone that racist or xenophobic behaviour is not tolerated by the FSA.