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    The Case for CAUT

    The Case for CAUT

    At its meeting on January 20, 2016, the FSA Board of Directors endorsed affiliating with the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) and called for a vote by the membership in April 2016.  In an effort to provide FSA members with adequate information prior to the vote, we have embarked on a campaign to provide a detailed assessment of the implications of this decision.

    The majority of the material can be found in our Member Portal including a Cost/Benefit analysis and answers to questions such as how the vote will be conducted, what it means to be a member, what the risks are if we don’t join, what are the alternatives to joining, and other detailed information about how CAUT operates and how we can be involved.

    Here we will provide a high level overview of the case for affiliation. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions and we encourage members to attend the General Meeting on April 20th where David Robinson, CAUT Executive Director, will join us.


    The BCIT Staff Society was created in 1964 during BCIT’s first semester of operation.  In 1974, faculty in BC won the right to unionize and the Staff Society immediately certified as a bargaining agent.  The name was changed to the Faculty and Staff Association (FSA) in 1996.

    Throughout its history the FSA has maintained its independence. This has provided gains and has also led to losing out on opportunities when working with other partners in the post-secondary sector, Federation of Post-Secondary Educators (FPSE) and the BC Government Employees Union (BCGEU) to name two.

    An example of missing out took place when FPSE and the BCGEU developed a common table for bargaining, with member locals having the ability to opt in or out of the resulting common table agreement.  As the provincial government concentrated more bargaining authority in the hands of the Post-Secondary Employers’ Association (PSEA), the FPSE/BCGEU/PSEA common table effectively settled the wage increases for the sector without the FSA’s participation.  These settlements have poorly reflected the unique structure of our salary scales.  A by-product of this common table was the creation of a joint trusteeship for the College Pension Plan, again without the FSA’s participation.

    The FSA Board of Directors began studying the possibility of some form of affiliation with other labour organizations following our 2012 job action.  The experience of nearly losing some of our drug benefit coverage because of deals made by other unions raised the question of whether a closer connection with other unions could provide more strength and security for our members.  We began that examination by surveying the range of associations active in our sector, meeting with the heads of the BC Federation of Labour (BCFed), FPSE, and CAUT, and attempting to identify benefits and risks.  Almost three years later, the Board is recommending that the FSA affiliate with CAUT.

    CAUT effectively acts as a kind of coalition of faculty associations on a national scale.  That scale means that CAUT is able to provide services that support our labour relations functions without taking over responsibility for them.  CAUT gives us the advantage of a form of partnership with other unions in our sector while improving but not changing how we do our representation work.

    What needs are we trying to meet by joining CAUT?

    The impetus by the FSA board of directors to look at affiliation comes in part from the recognition that the issues impacting our working conditions are frequently beyond the control of BCIT.  To improve our terms and conditions of work, we increasingly have to be represented at the sectoral, provincial, and national levels.

    We saw in our job action in 2012 that we can be influential on a sectoral scale.  We also saw that our independence and isolation makes exercising that influence more challenging.  We need a platform for maintaining dialogue with our colleagues in other unions in our sector and in the public sector more broadly.

    Affiliation also has been examined as a means of increasing the organizational resilience of the FSA.  Successive unplanned changes in the leadership of the FSA caused the board of directors to examine how to ensure the stability of the organization.  By having a broader support system, we can mitigate the risks of being a small independent organization reliant on a few key individuals.

    Who is CAUT?

    Founded in 1951, CAUT describes itself as “the national voice of 68,000 academic and general staff at more than 120 universities and colleges across Canada.”  Like the provincial and national professional associations in the industries that many FSA members come from, CAUT is the national professional association for post-secondary educators.

    CAUT is actively engaged in issues that are important to FSA members.  In almost every case, CAUT is the national authority and the leading voice for post-secondary educators on these subjects.  The FSA can not only gain from the information and thinking CAUT has assembled on these topics, we can help form influential opinions on these topics.

    Who are CAUT’s members?

    CAUT is a federation of faculty associations.  Every major English language post-secondary institution in Canada is represented at CAUT.  All public post-secondary faculty associations in BC are members of CAUT – either directly or through FPSE.   Faculty at the major polytechnics in Ontario are represented through their union, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). Instructors at the Northern and Southern Alberta Institutes of Technology (NAIT and SAIT) are represented at CAUT through their provincial federation, the Alberta Colleges and Institutes Faculties Association (ACIFA). The Saskatchewan Polytechnic Faculty Association is not a member of CAUT but, as a polytechnic faculty association without membership in a provincial federation, it was ineligible to join until a by-law change made at the CAUT council in November, 2015.

    A full list of their members across the country can be found on CAUT’s website.

    All voting at CAUT’s council, with the exception of elections, is done by weighted vote based on the number of members in each association.  Associations with fewer than 200 members receive a minimum of one vote.  Elected members of the CAUT executive also receive one vote.  With 1,600 members, the FSA would be CAUT’s sixth largest members and receive a weighted vote of 8. By comparison, FPSE’s voting weight is 5.7, ACIFA’s is 1.4, SFUFA’s is 5, and UBCFA has a voting weight of 15.5.

    What can we contribute to CAUT?

    In addition to its extensive affiliations among university faculty associations, all or most of the college and institute faculty associations in Ontario, Alberta, and BC are represented at CAUT through their provincial federations.  As a result of a change in CAUT by-laws that was adopted unanimously by its council in November, we would be the first association from the colleges and institutes sector to affiliate directly with CAUT.  The BCIT FSA would be a unique voice within CAUT.

    The FSA has already proven that it can be influential when it steps onto the sector stage.  We have many attributes that, when used wisely, give our voice substantial weight even on a national scale.  These characteristics include our membership size, our professional staff and operations, our financial resources, and the reputation of our institution.  Based on numbers alone, we would have a voting weight comparable to faculty associations from major research universities like Western and York.

    As the representative of post-secondary educators on a national scale, our participation in CAUT will make them more representative of the gamut of institutional structures.  CAUT will be more complete and stronger.

    What has CAUT gained for its members?

    CAUT is highly influential on a national and international scale.  That influence has direct benefits at the local level.

    Academic Freedom

    One of CAUT’s founding purposes was the defence of academic freedom.  CAUT has been the primary protector in Canada of “the right to teach, learn, study, and publish free of orthodoxy or threat of reprisal and discrimination.”  Several leading cases regarding academic freedom are described on the CAUT web site.

    For FSA members, issues relating to academic freedom have arisen in a number of ways.  Ownership of course materials is probably the most frequent example that comes up, with departments or colleagues claiming rights to materials without compensating the instructors who developed them independently.  Expression in the classroom also arises as an issue at BCIT from time to time.  Managers have pounced on Faculty when students have complained about statements made in class.  We have handled issues relating to intellectual property, requiring us to delve into a complex and specialized area of law that has significant financial consequences for members.

    Another aspect of academic freedom that impacts FSA members regularly is collegial governance, including departmental decision making, FSA selections, management selections, and program head responsibilities.  Many files dealt with by the FSA office are about members who are at odds with decisions made by their colleagues.  Many university faculty members face similar issues, and CAUT is a place to seek guidance on handling those disputes.  CAUT also monitors the appointment of academic managers on a national scale.


    Each member faculty association can decide how much participation from CAUT negotiators it wants during the bargaining process.  That might range from drawing on model language, accessing data on funding or wages, providing training for bargaining teams using the CAUT bargaining manual, advising as issues arise, appearing at the bargaining table, or even more substantial involvement.

    The FSA has already drawn on CAUT model language regarding academic freedom.  CAUT’s authority in this area is so well established that the language was adopted in the last round of bargaining as we proposed it. CAUT also maintains a database of collective agreement language, providing a range of examples on any particular topic.  CAUT’s new salary database is the most reliable source on academic salaries in Canada.

    Contract Academic Staff

    Almost all CAUT members struggle with an increasing dependence on contract academic staff (CAS) to deliver instructional programs.  At BCIT, this issue is particularly represented by the fact that 60% of our students are taught under PTS contracts that offer no office hours, no professional development, no sick leave, no job security, no participation in departmental processes, and rates of pay that are only 60% of the regular instructional rate. CAUT has taken a lead in attempting to co-ordinate a sector-wide response by faculty associations, highlighting the issue as one of their key campaigns.

    Institutional Governance

    Some of CAUT’s most high profile interventions for member associations have involved issues around institutional governance.  As the national body representing post-secondary faculty, CAUT has a censure process that identifies institutions that are not abiding by basic academic standards such as academic freedom, collegial governance, and human rights.  When CAUT censures an institution, using a rigorous process of investigation and deliberation, faculty around the world are put on notice that their basic rights to teach and conduct research might not be respected.  Many faculty, particularly those most in demand, may be reluctant to take positions or event visit institutions subject to censure.  Censure by CAUT is taken very seriously by Canadian universities.


    CAUT has stepped in and taken on representing faculty in major cases that have the potential to set precedents across the sector.  In addition to cases relating to academic freedom examples of arbitrations where CAUT has become involved include cases involving promotion and tenure, respectful workplace policy, and management rights.

    CAUT also maintains a database of arbitration decisions relevant to academic staff, including many unreported cases.  CAUT’s staff representatives are also able to advise member associations and their counsel on matters where CAUT has special expertise.


    CAUT is recognized as the national organization that speaks for academic staff in Canada.  CAUT presidents and executive directors are key contacts for the media on post-secondary education issues.  CAUT and its provincial affiliates actively participate in government consultations on issues relating to funding, education policy, and research.

    CAUT has the expertise, recognition, authority, and infrastructure to speak out on post-secondary education issues from the perspective of academic staff.  When we need our voice heard, CAUT provides a ready and effective platform for doing that.  When CAUT’s voice is heard, we want to make sure it reflects our interests.

    What is CAUT’s value proposition?

    Membership in CAUT has the potential to make us better at almost everything we do.  CAUT membership provides us access to amassed bodies of knowledge on almost every issue that is important to us.  CAUT has services and functions that support faculty association leadership, bargaining, advocacy, lobbying, and policy.  No other resource, whether that is an individual hired by the FSA, a consultancy, or participation in another organization can add value across the FSA’s key activities the way CAUT can.

    CAUT’s purpose is to support the work of faculty associations.  Joining CAUT allows us to maintain our autonomy and helps secure our independence into the future. CAUT extends our reach by making us part of a national conversation on issues that matter to us.  There is no replacement for being a part of that.

    No matter what kind of trouble we might find ourselves in, CAUT would have our back and there is nobody else we can depend on for that.

    How does CAUT enhance the already strong work of the FSA?

    CAUT enhances the FSA’s functions in three critical ways:

    • By giving us ready access to sectoral level data, information, partnerships, perspectives, and voice
    • By improving advocacy, negotiation, and leadership functions through professional advisors, networks, training, and information
    • By ensuring our security and stability when our own resources are ever challenged by providing us access to professional staff and well established networks of experienced practitioners in post-secondary labour relations and policy.

    Over 100 Canadian faculty associations are dealing with the same issues that we are facing.  CAUT gives us access to that vast reservoir of knowledge, experience and insight.

    What doesn’t change if we join CAUT?

    The BCIT FSA will remain an autonomous union solely dedicated to representing the interests of technology faculty and technical staff at BCIT.  As a federated association, CAUT has no power to direct its members to do anything.  We will control the extent to which CAUT is involved in the work of the FSA and the extent to which the FSA is involved in the work of CAUT.  Joining CAUT is not a merger with another union and does not require us to change how we do business.

    Will our dues go up if we join CAUT?

    The FSA board of directors is proposing an increase in dues from the current 1.65% to 1.85% to cover the cost of joining CAUT as well as other increasing expenses.  If members choose not to join CAUT, the board is proposing a dues increase to 1.75% relating to increased salary costs and maintaining the adequacy of our reserve fund.  The net 0.1% increase attributable directly to CAUT will cost a member at the top of the faculty salary scale about $80 a year with the average increase for members being about $50 a year.

    What’s the cost/benefit analysis look like?

    A much fuller breakdown of the costs and benefits is available in our Member Portal.

    Many of the benefits of affiliating with CAUT are hard to but a dollar value on, like the access CAUT provides to a network of faculty associations.  Some of the most important benefits can’t be recreated outside of CAUT, like their model collective agreement language and participation in the development of post-secondary education policy on a national scale. Even when similar services might be purchased from other sources, CAUT’s expertise in post-secondary education and comprehensive coverage of Canadian faculty associations adds significant value to the service we would receive from them.

    We estimate that the cost of those CAUT services that we expect to access and that could be readily source elsewhere would be about half the cost of CAUT membership.  Some of these services are not currently being access outside of CAUT but would improve our work.  In some cases, we anticipate decreasing spending on other services if we join CAUT.  About 30% of the cost of joining CAUT will be absorbed by reducing costs and surpluses in the current FSA budget.


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