Colin Jones, FSA President & Chief Negotiator and Michael Conlon, FSA Executive Director
As many FSA members will know, especially those teaching and working in BCIT’s Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN) program, the FSA has been working since the Fall of 2018 on a complex, broad, and significant set of grievances related to a change in delivery model within the BSN program.
What started out as an academic problem with an important priority – to graduate more nurses (a goal we all know is a priority for BC even before this global pandemic) – became an adversarial labour relations problem.
At risk were our members’ Collective Agreement rights to determine their workload through the Departmental governance process in Article 14, their rights to leaves (or break periods), and the right to take vacation in blocks. FSA staff and elected leadership took on this fight not only for the members in BSN but for the implications to the entire membership and potentially to workers across the post-secondary sector in BC and Canada.
Thanks to the diligence, efforts, and steadfastness of members directly impacted by an unsustainable workload and direct attacks on leave entitlements, these rights have now been defended.
After 30 hours of mediation, 8 days of arbitration, 3000 pages of documentation, and many more hours and hours of additional negotiations, preparation, and strategizing, a settlement between BCIT and the BCITFSA was reached on August 17, 2021.
In the end, BCIT came to the table with an offer that not only made available a pool of money to provide individual members who were exploited in the roll out of the three-term model with compensation, but also included a meaningful apology and a framework for moving the department forward in a sustainable and properly-resourced manner. While it is impossible to imagine any settlement truly compensating for the amount of stress and anguish suffered by members on the frontlines, we believe this settlement is fair and sets up a future for a supported BSN program with stability in workload and sufficient staffing.
This is great news for members, BCIT itself, and for nursing students who will be better able to succeed in their important careers when their faculty are also supported.
It must be said we only got here because we were prepared to exercise our arbitration rights under the Collective Agreement. Arbitration can sometimes be an adversarial process, and it certainly was in this case, but it was also absolutely indispensable to achieving the settlement we did.
Any arbitration of this magnitude is a collective effort that required significant personal and professional commitment from many people. FSA staff have worked tirelessly on this multi-file case for years and the FSA elected board has consistently and steadfastly supported us to do what was needed to do to fight for the rights of members in BSN, and to protect attacks on collective agreement rights that would have far ranging impacts for the whole membership. Our legal team at Black Gropper not only provided expert legal advice, but also saw the importance of this case for workers across the post-secondary environment.
And, in terms of implications for our sector, we would also be remiss if we didn’t thank our national affiliate organization, CAUT. CAUT immediately stepped up when called and offered to provide financial support for legal fees should we have needed to return to arbitration this fall. This clearly increased our leverage to negotiate a fair settlement. David Robinson, Executive Director of CAUT, sent the following message when informed of the resolution of the case:
“The ability to shape and control the flow of our work is integral to post-secondary education and we applaud you for the principled stand you took to protect your departmental governance rights. CAUT was proud to stand in solidarity with the FSA and your members in Nursing.”
It is always a risk to name individuals when expressing thanks but we must mention the unwavering and phenomenal work of FSA Tech Rep, Adrianna D’Ilio and FSA Labour Relations Consultant, Jazz Sandhu. The collective principles of unionism and the FSA’s mission for excellent working conditions for all members through representation, negotiation, and advocacy are brought to life when individual members stand up not only for themselves but for their colleagues and the membership as a whole.
Throughout this process, we have been guided by our values of integrity, solidarity, empowerment, and equity. We have also kept the sector’s principles of academic freedom and collegial governance front and centre in our strategy. Together with you, the FSA membership, and with this settlement with BCIT, we continue on a path towards our vision of a dynamic and supportive educational community!Leave a reply →