Limited Return to Campus
As you will know, some departments have returned to campus in order that their students could complete experiential portions of the curriculum. In order to return, Department Leaders needed to create a safety plan and have it approved by the Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee. We know that creating the plans and reviewing them was a lot of work for involved faculty, and we acknowledge that. There will be more departments returning to campus over the summer and in the fall, but the majority of programs will continue with remote delivery through the fall term.
As we were unable to reach agreement with the college on our condensed packages, we have gone to the Labour Board and asked for a mediator. A mediator has now been assigned to us, and our work with the mediator will begin soon. Please see below for an explanation from Bargaining Chair, Frank Cosco:
The SIA shouldn’t have become a problem
In the latest bargaining newsletter, we outlined the current impasse between VCC and the VCCFA. By the way, a government mediator was appointed on June 30th and should be calling the parties together soon. An outstanding problem that requires more explanation is what’s come to be called the Service Improvement Allocation, SIA.
Since 2001 each of seven rounds has brought with it a slightly different imposition by the PSEA, the Post-Secondary Employers’ Association*, always with the same theme: tight control of wage and benefit costs and extremely tight control of any gains in rights.
*The NDP in the 1990s through the Ministry of Finance created the Public Sector Employers’ Council – PSEC to control public sector bargaining. It has a sub-agency for each of the major parts of the Public Sector. For Post-Secondary, it is the PSEA, the Post-Secondary Employers’ Association. Each institution is represented on the PSEA board.
The Election of the NDP
The election of the NDP caused some bargainers to think, finally, we should be able to return to a more traditional form of bargaining where in addition to wages and benefits, unions will be able to effectively pursue rights issues. The VCCFA wanted to finally get to some rights issues and put an ambitious bargaining agenda to membership for ratification. Up until COVID hit, we were working on that agenda.
The new Mandate and the SIA
The government published its broad monetary mandate for the current round:
- Three-year term 2019-2022
- General wage increases of 2% in each year
- Ability to negotiate conditional and modest funding that can be used to drive tangible service improvements for British Columbians. An example would be targeted funds to address existing, chronic labour market challenges where employers need to meet service delivery commitments or changes that achieve service enhancements such as innovations, modernization or efficiencies.
As the first agreements came in, the parameters for the “modestly funded” SIA started to take shape. It would be about 0.25% of payroll in each of three years that would become a cumulative 0.75% ongoing fund. In return the unions had to commit to a “tangible service improvement.” At VCC that .75% would be equal to about $345k a year in 2021 and thereafter. All this sounded better then what we’d been getting under the Liberals.
Here’s where matters have become complicated. While different parts of the public sector started getting SIA agreements that were not too onerous from the union point of view, in PostSecondary, SIA discussions have been difficult. PSEA, with the compliance of its local administrations, has asked with seemingly no pattern, plan or consistency for various concessions in order to ”unlock” the SIA amounts. For some faculty unions these have been mild, or non-existent. However, for five faculty unions (at Camosun, Coast Mountain, Selkirk, Nicola Valley, and Okanagan) they have been so onerous that the faculty associations said forget about it, we would rather not take the money at all and will just roll-over the agreement and get our pay settlement. We haven’t heard of any other sector where this has occurred.
VCC’s view of the SIA
At VCC, we did not start talking about the SIA until entering the final package phase of bargaining in May and June, after COVID hit. VCC management and PSEA have asked for very significant concessions. In their second package, June 11th, in return for the SIA, they all Renewal Leaves to be replaced by Industry Leaves which would only be available in Applied disciplines. They do not want full carryover of unused amounts after year three, and finally they have set out that any term work that occurred because of this SIA fund wouldn’t count for regularization. No other Post-Secondary faculty union that has settled on the SIA has accepted such conditions. They seem to want us not to have it.
Please recall that these SIA concession demands are in addition to the others** outlined in the newsletter. We actually don’t understand why VCC and PSEA feel it’s okay to go after us in this way. Our positions are well-within the cost parameters of the government. We have already had to drop our core rights issues because of the COVID crisis. These are not the moves of an employer who cares about having good labour relations. It is the worst bargaining situation of the eight Lower Mainland faculty unions who bargain with the PSEA–all of whom have settled with a deal on the SIA on acceptable terms. And we are now the only one of the 16 Federation of Post-Secondary Educators faculty unions in BC that bargain with PSEA that does not have a deal.
**Other concession demands: elimination of outside process in cases of harassment, weakening of online learning workload provisions, forced payback of Supplemental Employment Benefit if not continuing to work at VCC after parental leave, limits on massage and physio coverage, elimination of process on hiring area changes.
We have gone to mediation because it seems to us that VCC and PSEA are not interested in a respectful deal.
VCCFA Bargaining Chair
The college has stepped back from its position that individual departments must be responsible for procuring their own cleaning supplies. Instead, schools will purchase supplies and departments will work with their dean to get what they need. Please speak to your dean about this.
The LOU that we negotiated with the college back at the beginning of COVID expires at the end of August. The current LOU ensured the following things:
- Any reduction of regular faculty due to COVID 19 would not happen prior to May 1, 2020
- Any break in employment by a Term faculty member during the period of the LOU will not negatively impact that Term faculty member’s ability to meet the number of duty days required for regularization
- Appraisals for regular faculty will not occur during the life of the LOU
- Evaluation of term faculty members will not happen during the life of the LOU
We will be working on the next LOU over the next few weeks, and we will try to get an agreement that will cover the fall term and take into account both faculty who are working on campus and those continuing to work remotely.
At this point, the college is saying that it will not be issuing T2200 forms allowing faculty to write off expense incurred while working from home. We are in touch with our colleagues around the province on this issue and are listening to what the CRA is saying. Stay tuned!
The three faculty members on layoff notice (and the implicated Term faculty) in ABE got a small reprieve this week as their layoffs were pushed from the end of July to the end of August. This was thanks to our advocacy, and I thank John Demeulemeester, Frank Cosco and the ABE department leaders for their work. We regret that the college continues to pursue these layoffs.
We have learned there will be cuts to the LINC program in the fall. These cuts will mean fewer classes for students and also a loss of work for many Term faculty. LINC has waitlists for all of its levels and classes, so the cuts are bewildering. We will be working through the summer to advocate on behalf of this program, its students and faculty.
We have been working with a small group of concerned faculty and have begun planning how the VCCFA can support anti-racism work here at VCC. I know that many of you have asked to get involved, and we thank you for our interest. Please watch your email for more information about how you can get involved.
I hope that many of you will get a good break this summer. There is no question that you have earned it! The fall will bring fresh challenges, and it is best if we are rested in order to face them.
John, Frank and I will be taking holidays over the summer, but one of us will pretty much always be around, so please don’t hesitate to reach out with your questions, concerns or comments.
Wishing you sunshine, rest, joy and fun over the next few months.
VCCFA Chief Steward