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    • 17 NOV 20
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    Reflections on CAUT’s State of the Sector Gathering

    Reflections on CAUT’s State of the Sector Gathering

    Headshot of Colin JonesColin Jones, FSA President

    As a President of a faculty and staff association that is a member of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), I am part of a national network or what might be called a community of practice. On Tuesday, Nov 17th, CAUT brought over 50 association presidents from across the country together for a “State of the Sector” gathering to share stories, challenges, and successes in responding to the pandemic we are all experiencing.

    It was clear in listening to my peers in this group that BCITFSA members are facing similar issues as many post-secondary employees across the sector, with perhaps varying levels of severity. The discussion covered a range of matters including violations of collegial governance, concerns about the use of emergency powers, aggressive moves made by some provincial governments in open bargaining tables, and lots of issues around workload. The issues around workload are exacerbated for those who are Contract Academic Staff (CAS), or what we refer to at BCIT as Part-Time Studies Faculty. Some institutions have offered (or negotiated) additional compensation or adjusted workload, but there is a consistent experience of inequity, lack of understanding of the work that goes into transitioning and maintaining online or blended delivery, and attempts by institutions to apply one-time, band-aid solutions that don’t fully address reality. Associations are pursuing resolution through grievances, letters of agreement, and seeking creative solutions that don’t put long-standing positions (e.g. the need for office space for Contract Academic Staff) at risk.

    There was also a discussion about the gendered impacts of the pandemic as well as the additional stress for people working in post-secondary who also have duties to care for small children (or other family members). Some associations are seeking to address this through human rights and anti-discrimination legislation.

    It was also clear to me that CAUT provides strong support to this community. They are collecting copies of any Letters of Understanding (LOUs) being negotiated at institutions so that member associations can review them to see what has been achieved. They are providing legal advance on requirements related to employment contracts and the conditions for working – including working remotely. They are refocusing their upcoming Forum for Senior Grievance Officers to concentrate on labour relations in a time of a pandemic and will be looking at matters such as health & safety matters, collegial governance rights, and workload issues.

    CAUT is also looking beyond the issues that are specific to different institutions by pushing public policy more broadly at a national level. This week wraps up their 2020 virtual version of their annual Parliament Hill Days to lobby federal Members of Parliament (MPs) on issues that matter in post-secondary education.

    As I head into next week’s virtual CAUT Council meeting, where we will be dealing with a full agenda, I take with me our desire to find balance between delivering the quality support and education our students deserve, with the need to see our additional workload, as a result of COVID, fully acknowledged by BCIT’s administration.

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