In addition to the update posted on this page on January 6, 2022 and sent out in our all-members bulletin this morning, we have also sent a letter to Dr. Bonnie Henry. You can read the full letter here.
Before diving into this update, we want to acknowledge how unnerving the latest return to campus is for many of our members. This pandemic has been a drain on our collective resources and an ongoing challenge to our mental and physical health. The 5th and most transmissible wave of this pandemic has caught some off guard, and at a time when we are all tired of the collective and individual toll that COVID-19 has taken already.
Many of you have reached out to share your safety concerns about this imminent return to in-person learning, as well as your dissatisfaction with how BCIT has been communicating. We hear you and have been bringing these concerns forward to BCIT in daily meetings.
We want to provide you with an update about our discussions with BCIT.
As you all now aware, BCIT will be returning to full in-person operations on Monday, January 10, 2022. In our meetings with the senior leadership of BCIT, we have raised the issues of the need for N95 masks and improved ventilation, inquired about verifying vaccination status of students, inquired about individual accommodations for members, noted workload concerns related to likely staffing shortages, and, finally, pressed the issue of remote work for those members not operationally required to be on campus.
Unfortunately, we have made little progress on the issue of N95 masks. In no small part because the PHO does not support their wide distribution, BCIT has no plans to order and distribute N95 masks. On the issue of improved ventilation, unlike the K-12 sector, no new funding has been supplied for enhanced ventilation. On the issue of verifying the vaccination status of students, there are no changes forthcoming to the voluntary survey BCIT conducted in the Fall. On the matter of rapid tests, they will be provided to the institution in the coming weeks, and BCIT has told us that they will follow up with us about how they will be used and distributed.
One of the core concerns we have been hearing from members is about the possibility of increased workload resulting from colleagues on sick leave and student absences. This is a particular concern for members who work in Part-Time Studies (PTS). The advice we have been giving members is that there is no expectation for you to take on extra workload without compensation. Given the nature of the pandemic, our members have already gone above and beyond to ensure that students get the very best education possible. We have advised BCIT that the prevailing terms of the Collective Agreement related to contact hours and overtime remain in force.
If you have individual questions related to your workload, please connect with our labour relations team via firstname.lastname@example.org. Given the volume of member correspondence we are receiving, we ask that you connect with us if specific work has been assigned to you that is affecting your workload, as it is very difficult to offer advice about potential or theoretical workload challenges.
On the issue of remote work, there is progress to report. After pressing BCIT and reminding them that at both the December 31 and the January 4 briefings, the PHO advised that those who can work from home should do so, BCIT issued a revised communication to managers providing directions to accommodate remote work for those not required to be on campus for operational reasons. If you are immune compromised and/or at elevated risk for severe complications from COVID-19, or if you are caring for someone at elevated risk from complications from COVID-19, if you are denied an individual accommodation by your manager, please contact our labour relations team via email@example.com. We have been able to obtain accommodations for a number of members, and we will work with you to determine if you may qualify for an accommodation.
We also want to address the issue that most of the research universities in our sector are not returning to in-person teaching until January 24, at the earliest, and the vast majority of post-secondary institutions in the country will be teaching remotely until the end of January. Many of you have asked about this disparity. The simple answer is that, unlike the research institutions, BCIT is not legally (or politically) autonomous and must follow the direction of the Ministry of Advanced Education & Skills Training, as well as the directives of the Provincial Health Officer (PHO). In a December 21 letter, Dr. Henry indicated that post-secondary institutions were to return to in-person learning January 4 (now modified to January 10 in line with the K-12 return).
The assertion in the December 21 letter, that a return to in-person teaching and service delivery is safe, has landed poorly with many of you and we share your concerns. By and large, the return to in-person operations in the Fall proceeded smoothly, but the transmissibility of the Omicron variant means that it is increasingly likely there will be transmission on campus. Indeed, in her January 4 briefing, Dr. Henry speculated that up to 1/3 of the workforce could be off sick in the next 4-6 weeks. That statement is clearly at odds with the assertion that our campuses are safe.
We have also advised BCIT to stop communicating to our members that in-person teaching and service delivery is inherently safe. They have not committed to any enhanced safety measures and, given the spread of the Omicron variant, there is ample evidence that in-person delivery in a post-secondary environment carries a substantial risk of transmission. In terms of our legal options, as we noted in a previous update, the BC Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) has attempted in numerous venues to challenge the health and safety issues associated with a return to K-12 in-person teaching in a pandemic, and have been rebuffed in each instance. In essence, the courts defer to the PHO and are very unlikely to substitute their judgement over that of the PHO in regard to the health and safety of workplaces. However, we are monitoring health and safety rulings across the country, as well as communicating with our legal counsel in the event that the court’s rulings on these issues shift. In addition, we are also in regular contact with our union colleagues across the sector.
We acknowledge that many of our answers, and much of this information, is likely not what you were hoping to hear. We have clearly reached another very difficult phase of the pandemic where there are no easy answers and only tough choices. However, we want to assure you that we continue to press BCIT on issues of our members’ health and safety, are monitoring the situation on a daily (hourly?) basis, and will communicate updates as they arise. We will ensure that BCIT is aware of the strain this directive for in-person teaching and service delivery is taking and that they appreciate the work you are doing on behalf of BCIT students.
The BCITFSA released a combined statement with CUFA BC and FPSE to call for a safer return to campus in January given the current situation with the Omicron variant of COVID-19. You can read the statement here.
Based on what you have been reaching out to share with us over the past couple weeks (including at this week’s AGM), we have sent a letter to Minister Kang to reflect the substantial majority of the comments we have been receiving from members. You can read the full letter here.
This statement was sent by email bulletin to all FSA members on October 7, 2021 from Colin Jones (President) & Michael Conlon (Executive Director)
Since March 2020, we have made an effort to update members – through posts to this page and updates in our weekly e-bulletin – on matters related to the coronavirus pandemic and your workplaces. We have tried to strike a balance between keeping you informed and pushing BCIT to make sure that they inform you (and here), as is their responsibility as your Employer. We have heard from members that they have appreciated our approach thus far, and we are grateful to hear this from members because it truly matters to us. Unfortunately for all of us, there is another player in this scenario as is clear from yesterday’s important update from Glen Magel.
The announcement that came out from Glen Magel’s office on October 6th is another example of a disconnect between the provincial government and your work on the frontlines of delivering teaching and learning services for BC’s post-secondary education sector. The BCIT survey to determine the community vaccination rates had a relatively weak response compared to what we know has taken place at other post-secondary institutes who have reported on similar surveys. This raises concerns when decisions are changed based on that survey’s results. In addition, and as several of you have pointed out in emails and messages to us, BCIT has chosen to draw conclusions based on this relatively small, self-selected sample.
The provincial government also bears an immense amount of responsibility for what and how BCIT is able communicate with you. The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training and the office of the Public Health Officer (PHO) largely control and direct what measures BCIT is able to take. Their ongoing, and often frustrating, changes to pandemic protocols, restrictions, and vaccine/rapid testing parameters are a challenge for all of us. As you know, things are often announced last minute, are vague, change course abruptly, and do not always support the operational realities of your work.
On August 27, BCIT stated that they would be “implementing vaccine-related protocols to ensure maximum protection and safety for everyone learning, working, or visiting a BCIT campus. This includes implementing mandatory confidential vaccine reporting for those immunized, and mandatory regular rapid testing for those who choose not to share their vaccination status or to not be vaccinated.” Yesterday’s email announced a change to that plan.
We know from talking to our labour colleagues, representing post-secondary workers across the province, that some other institutions were able to move forward with these measures. We remain concerned that this is another example of the province’s overreach into your workplace in a way that undermines BCIT’s autonomy to make decisions in the interests of our members. The Public Health Officer continues to claim that post-secondary institutions are low risk settings and it is disappointing that rapid testing on post-secondary campuses is not supported by their office nor the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training.
We are frustrated and disappointed that BCIT was unable to fulfill their commitments. It is even more important to us that you, our members, are able to focus on your work with clear expectations.
We will continue this dialogue with BCIT and we will bring forward your concerns about both this process and working conditions on campus. In addition, the role of the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training will prompt us to revisit our government relations strategy, given the direct influence of the Minister’s office on operations at BCIT.
This update was distributed on September 3rd through an e-bulletin to the FSA membership.
Dear FSA members,
We wanted to reach out to you today as BCIT prepares for full in-person operations (see BCIT’s Fall 2021 Ready Checklist). While we are cognizant that some of you have been on campus throughout the pandemic, and some programs have already started, next week marks an important milestone in the return to campus. To that end, we want to provide you with an update about what we know (at this point) about the BC return to campus protocols (and here), after what has been a tumultuous couple of weeks.
As you will recall, the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) announced on March 8th that all post-secondary institutions would be returning to full, in-person operations for Fall 2021. BCIT began to plan accordingly, and the FSA continued to meet several times a week with BCIT leadership about the return to campus. The full return to campus was premised on two basic principles: high rates of vaccination based on universal access to two doses and a substantial reduction in the case counts we saw in later winter and early spring. As we now know, the province was only able to achieve one of these goals as case counts now approach some of the highest we have during this pandemic.
As we got deeper into the summer, we started to hear from some of you about your anxiety and concern about returning to campus under these circumstances. That concern started to echo around the province and, after stubbornly refusing to alter course, the PHO made a series of important, and, at times, confusing announcements throughout August. At the core of the discussion was the capacity for institutions to enact safety protocols that exceeded the formal PHO guidelines.
Based on rapidly escalating case counts, the PHO reinstituted the mask mandate on August 24th for all indoor spaces in the province, including BCIT campuses (with the specifics of the order released Sept 2nd). The province also announced a ‘vaccine passport’ program for non-essential public spaces such gyms, restaurants, concerts, and theatres that did not include education spaces at post-secondary institutions – with the exception of student residences. After pressure from both faculty unions and administrations, the PHO announced on August 25th that post-secondary institutions would be allowed to enquire about the vaccination status of faculty and staff, but oddly not students. After further pressure to reverse this decision, the PHO announced that, in fact, students would be captured in the new guidance and could be asked to provide their vaccination status. It is important to note that the leeway afforded to post-secondary institutions to enquire about vaccination status is distinct from the province-wide ‘vaccine passport’ program, and each institution is free to develop its own regulations. As you will have seen in recent correspondence from the Institute, BCIT staff, students, and faculty who either refuse to provide vaccination status or indicate they are not vaccinated, will be expected to undertake regular rapid testing; the details of which are still to be announced.
Both the collection of vaccine status information, and the option of rapid testing, require further work by BCIT before they can be properly operationalized. BCIT is currently sourcing options for both to ensure an efficient model of implementation, while protecting the privacy of staff, students, and faculty, and complying with all relevant FIPPA regulations. The FSA will examine these policies to ensure they meet with the requirements of the relevant regulations and conform with our Collective Agreement.
We understand, given the fact that the fall term has now started for many of you, that it is disconcerting not to have more clarity about how these regulations will work on the ground. Given that the PHO order for a full return to campus came on March 8, there has been ample time for planning by the province. The simple reality is that the province constrains what post-secondary institutions, including BCIT, can do and all of these recent announcements have taken place at the proverbial 11th hour. We remain in constant dialogue with BCIT on these issues as we move forward, but the reality is that the plan will likely will not be fully operationalized for several weeks.
On a related note, we have heard from a number of you asking about the possibility of continuing to work remotely. As previously announced, BCIT is piloting a program to allow non-teaching members to work remotely several days a week. For instructional faculty, our advice from the outset has been that if it is pedagogically sound to continue offering courses remotely, that it is within the purview of the Article 14 Departmental decision-making process to do so. That position has been echoed by senior leadership of the Institute. In cases where courses can be best offered remotely, Departments are free to pursue that option.
Amidst this shifting and complex terrain, we will continue to meet regularly with BCIT leadership and with our counterparts at associations and unions across the province, and commit to updating you when more information becomes available.
In the meantime, I wish you success and good health as you navigate this challenging return to campus, and I promise that the FSA will continue to raise our voices and continue to fight for a safe, sustainable, and successful return to campus for all of our members.
Michael Conlon, FSA Executive Director
On behalf of the entire FSA team.
This update was distributed on August 27th through our weekly e-bulletin to the FSA membership.
As many of you know, the announcement on Tuesday, by Minister Kang and Dr. Bonnie Henry, brought some adapted measures (e.g. indoor mask mandate) as well as the campus application of the proof of vaccine requirement announced the day prior. Tuesday’s announcement created some confusion as well with the government leaving vaccine requirements up to each post-secondary institute for employees but directing no vaccine requirement for students. It is fair to say that this left the entire sector – unions, faculty, staff, students, and post-secondary administration – confused and in need of clarity.
We moved quickly to coordinate with other faculty unions and associations in the province. Since Tuesday your FSA leadership has been in constant contact (meeting daily this week) with some of our union counterparts in this sector, including BCGEU, CUFA-BC, FPSE, CUPE BC, and MoveUP. We also had multiple conversations with BCIT leadership (multiple calls per day!) and we have been staying apprised of this rapidly evolving situation.
With the latest announcements from the sector, we have seen post-secondary communities of administrators, students, staff, and faculty across BC come together to push for, and achieve, additional measures above those announced by the provincial health office. We support a sector-wide approach. It is important for both employees and students that there is clarity and a common approach across the province to ensure that students, staff, and faculty are able to return safely to campus.
We know, given how close we are to the start of term, that not having specific details is likely stressful. It has been a remarkable week with a number of unanticipated turns but we have talked with BCIT and know they are awaiting the specifics of the public health orders so they can give you the details you need! We encourage you to closely watch BCIT’s communications as well as their FAQs as they are updated and we will provide additional updates as we have them.
This is also a good time to remind you, FSA members, that your Departments have big roles to play in determine how you deliver your services to best meet the needs of students, while adhering to all safety measures. Make sure your Departments are having inclusive and robust conversations to make decisions based on pedagogy (in academic areas) and service realities (in non-teaching areas) that uphold safety while also adapting to the needs of a dynamic and supportive educational community.
The FSA has sent a letter to Minister Kang, cc’d to BCIT’s leadership. You can find the letter here.
New/updated content will be marked with “NEW” or “UPDATED” as this page evolves.
On May 14th, we provided a general statement regarding Fall 2021 plans. A lot has changed since then and both the province and BCIT have put out new information. We encourage all members to familiarize themselves with BCIT’s June 21st Info Session and related Q&A document (Loop link), the BC Restart Plan, and the Ministry’s Return-to-Campus guidelines. We also encourage members to read over BCIT’s Pandemic Scenario Response Plan. The FSA, along with the BCGEU units on campus, continue to receive regular updates from BCIT leadership and we will continue to focus on ensuring your rights are protected as you go through another big change.
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’. Some of the safety measures and protocols that we have all become used to since the start of the pandemic will no longer be needed. We understand members who have been working remotely or with have differing levels of comfort about returning to in-person operations and we empathize with those concerns. We will be closely monitoring the case loads and relative risk of in-person campus operations and will advocate for more stringent measures as needed. In the interim, we have prepared an FAQ below to capture as many of the questions you may have as possible. We may update these FAQs as the situation evolves.
Do you have a question about Fall 2021’s return-to-campus that we haven’t addressed here? Suggest an FAQ as we will be adding new content when we have it.
Yes. Starting September 13th our office will be open for in-person operations during usual business hours (8:30am-4:30pm). However, we will be following all of the same safety protocols as BCIT as well as staggering the return to a full office for our staff. After September 13th, our operations will remain hybrid. As always, if you need to connect with us or have an employment-related question please contact the FSA.
During a pandemic or at any time, we have been clear: 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!
If you do contact us, it will be helpful for our staff team if you have already attempted to communicate your concerns (if you can do safely) and if you have recorded any relevant information.
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.
As announced in late August the Province has re-instituted the mask mandate so masks are now mandatory in all indoor spaces, including classrooms. BCIT also announced, that like other post-secondary institutions, they will be asking faculty, staff, and students their vaccine status. For those who either decline to answer or who are unvaccinated they will be required to undergo rapid testing. As of mid-September BCIT has still not secured adequate supply of rapid testing kits and it is unclear when they will be able to do so. In addition, faculty and students are expected to continue to self-monitor and those exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 are still asked not to come to campus. Close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases will also continue to be required to self-isolate for a period of 14 days. BCIT will continue to monitor the guidance provided by the Provincial Health Officer and will adjust protocols as if the environment changes.
BCIT advises that the faculty/staff member should both refer the student to Early Assist as well as contacting Early Assist themselves and copy Glen Magel, Director of Safety and Security. BCIT will then contact Fraser Health who will be in charge of next steps in terms of contact tracing.
Inform BCIT Human Resources as well as your most immediate managerial contact (generally the Associate Dean/Director). You must self-isolate for a period of 14 days or until your symptoms abate before you can return to campus. BCIT has a duty of care to protect your privacy and the duty to report a positive test is solely for operational and public health reasons. Fraser Health will lead the contact tracing process and BCIT cannot disclose your positive tests to colleagues or students.
Under Worksafe BC legislation employees have the right to refuse work they deem unsafe. However, this refusal must be based on reasonably accepted definitions of unsafe. In the case of COVID, for example, it would not be valid to claim that your workplace is unsafe because social distancing measures have been removed. Because BCIT is inline with the safety guidelines set out by the PHO, that would not qualify as an unsafe work environment. If you have specific safety issues, please contact the FSA.
No. Because the provincial state of emergency and the accompanying public health orders have been lifted, BCIT can require you to teach in-person. However, it is worth noting that prior to the pandemic BCIT already had a significant number of courses offered remotely. The decision to offer courses remotely is a Departmental decision as set out in Article 14. If there is a sound pedagogical reason for doing so, there is no reason courses cannot be offered remotely. Indeed, a number of faculty report positive learning outcomes as a result of teaching remotely. In other cases, remote learning has been sub optimal. Either way personal preference or comfort level is not a sufficient reason to not return to in-person teaching. If this is your preference by all means have the discussion with management but barring a Department wide decision to offer a particular course remotely you will not have the unilateral right to continue to teaching remotely.
Request for accommodations are handled on a case-by-case basis. Any accommodation would need to be supported by medical documentation and would go BCIT’s usual process for medical accommodation. For a review of any specific medical issues, please contact BCIT Human Resources. If you have questions or concerns with the answers provided by BCIT, contact the FSA directly.
The Institute is directing faculty to be flexible given the unique realities we are all facing in this return to campus. And on a short-term basis we are suggesting our members follow this direction where possible. However, where the workload in doing so becomes onerous please contact your Program Head and/or Associate Dean and inform them, as per the Collective Agreement, of the unreasonable work. At that point if you are unsatisfied with the answer you receive please contact the FSA. In particular, your Collective Agreement has good language limiting contact hours, so please connect if you are regularly working more than 15 contact hours per week.
International students will be subject to same measures as all students and will have to report vaccine status and/or undergo rapid testing. That is in addition to taking a PCR test with a negative result within 72 hours prior to arriving in Canada.
No. That is considered personal health information and neither your employer or colleagues can require you to answer that question. However, BCIT is able to inquire about vaccination status via a survey platform. BCIT must carefully protect this information and only the minimum number of people required to follow up for a rapid test are entitled to see your status.
Yes. In addition to the masks wearing required under the provincial health order, employees can wear a mask at any time if they feel it will enhance their safety.
Yes. The public health order for masks was reinstituted on August 24, 2021. You can find details about the application in post-secondary on pages 8 & 9 of the provincial health order.
To see where masks are required, read pp. 8-9 of the public health order.
You should ask the student to put on a mask and remind them that it is a public health order. If they do not have a mask, you can direct them to BCIT Safety & Security to pick one up. If a student either refuses to wear a mask or won’t leave the class or other common area, that becomes a safety and security issue. You can pause operations while contacting BCIT Safety & Security to respond.
If the student claims to have an exemption, they cannot self declare. Students requesting an accommodation to the mask requirement based on medical or disability status should contact BCIT Accessibility Services to initiate their accommodation request process and will be required to submit valid medical documentation.
No FSA member is required to deal with students who are confrontational or disruptive. Any behaviour of that kind is covered by the Student Code of Conduct (Non-academic). The BCIT Student Life Office provides consultation, advice, education and training on student conduct management to the BCIT community.
BCIT officials provide early intervention and correction when student behaviour violates safety requirements, disrupts the learning environment or breaches academic or non-academic codes of conduct. The purpose of early intervention is to alert or remind students of BCIT’s expectations around safe, respectful, productive and ethical conduct. Students who are actively noncompliant could be reported via Early Assist. EA is a confidential, online platform that allows you to report concerns about students (academic or behavioural) to the Student Life Office so that students can get support, including having behavioural expectations clarified/reinforced. They have a new type of category on their referral form: COVID-19 Monitoring.
Yes, the PHO order permits students to lower their mask to eat or drink while in an indoor space. Though there are ‘No Eating and Drinking’ signs up in classrooms, we have been told by BCIT leadership that there is actually no policy or rule in place at BCIT preventing students or faculty from eating or drinking in class. However faculty are encouraged to remind students to put their mask back on when they have finished eating or drinking.
BCIT has not committed to an Institute-wide policy but in discussion with Human Resources they have indicated to us that this is an option that managers will be encouraged to offer to employees. We will continue dialogue with BCIT on this issue to ensure our members are treated fairly.
The FSA has been pushing for work from home (WFH) provisions since the last round of bargaining and we have continued dialogue with BCIT who, to their credit, have come forward with a proposed blueprint for piloting remote work as we transition back to full in-person operations. The guidelines set out a number of core principles including the possibility of remote work when it is operationally feasible to do so. However, BCIT also reiterates in the blueprint that BCIT is based on face-to-face operations and staff are expected in person the majority of the time. In addition, because this is not a negotiated provision of the Collective Agreement, management retains sole discretion over approving WFH requests. However, we have a productive conversation underway with the senior leadership of BCIT to ensure that approval is not unreasonably withheld and that there is a uniform standard across the Institute for opportunities to work remotely.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.