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CAUT Bulletin Archives

March 2002

International Outcry over British Columbia's Bill 28

Many international associations have writen to B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell condemning the introduction of Bill 28: Public Education Flexibility and Choice Act. A sample follows. - ed.

NATFHE represents nearly 70,000 teachers and researchers in new universities, colleges of higher education and other sectors of post-school education in the United Kingdom. Canadian colleagues have drawn to our attention the recent legislation your government has passed through the British Columbia legislature, giving college managements the right to unilaterally dismantle collective agreements painstakingly negotiated over many years. On behalf of academic staff in the United Kingdom, we would like to express our dismay and condemnation of this action.

If the parallel United Kingdom experience is a guide, it will set back management/faculty relations by many years, and will simply result in a period of confrontation before managements recognise the need to negotiate and put back in place agreements that have been so cavalierly renounced. It is the antithesis of harmonious work relations and of the sense of academic community which is at the heart of a successful higher education system, and it is deeply regrettable for this sort of management diktat to be condoned, let alone promoted, by government.

Experience suggests that moves like this cause long term damage to the credibility and attractiveness of a country's higher education system to outside faculty and researchers, setting in train a downward spiral of standards and of relative academic strength, in an increasingly inter-related global academic community. Bad practice will drive out the good, as institutions not wanting to tear up agreements find themselves under more pressure from competition with those that embrace the 'opportunity' your administration has given them.

I am the chairperson of the European Higher Education and Research Standing Committee of the worldwide teachers' body Education International (EI). The members of the committee will be meeting at a major EI conference on higher education and research (this) month in Montreal, with colleagues from Canada, the USA, and other countries. I have no doubt we will hear reports from our colleagues in British Columbia, and will consider the actions we can take to support them in challenging and seeking to overturn this pernicious legislation.

Paul Bennett
National Official, NATFHE, The University and College Lecturers' Union, United Kingdom

We are writing to express our great surprise and outrage at the legislation your government has imposed. For the higher education sector Bill 28 is a pernicious attack on faculty and on the quality of education in the college system. It undermines the long-term relationship between faculty and college administrations.

The collective agreements, which you have given presidents and college boards the right to abandon, are the result of a process of negotiation and compromise. If you allow one party to quit its negotiated obligations, you undermine the trust on which labour relations rest. To be able to find equivalents, you have to look outside the civilized part of the world.

Bill 28 has the potential to damage the quality of education. While you see class size and workload provisions as barriers to unilateral administrative control, faculty and students recognize these provisions as necessary to ensure high quality education. If these provisions are stripped from collective agreements, students will experience larger classes, and less time for interaction with faculty. It is unacceptable that learning conditions are designed by administrations to save money rather than by faculty to obtain a worthwhile educational experience.

If you have any concern for the future of your province and the quality of education you provide to this and future generations of students, you will withdraw Bill 28. We will do absolutely everything in our power to assist our members in B.C. in getting your government to reverse its ill-considered and destructive policies. And we will of course contribute to the circulation of information in the European countries about present academic conditions in Canada.

Christoph Bargholtz
President, Swedish Association of University Teachers

Göran Blomqvist
General Secretary, Swedish Association of University Teachers

We are astonished to learn from our Canadian colleagues that your government intends to abrogate clauses in legitimately negotiated collective agreements between colleges and their employees through the enactment of Bill 28.

We know of no precedent for such action and regard it as a totalitarian act unworthy of a democratic country such as Canada.

The proposal, if enacted as proposed, will lead to a deterioration of standards in higher education in British Columbia and will almost certainly mean that academic staff will not seek positions at the affected colleges.

We will certainly be advising our members here in New Zealand of the impact of this legislation. We urge you to reconsider this draconian step and withdraw Bill 28.

Rob Crozier
Executive Director, Association of University Staff, New Zealand

I am writing to you on behalf of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), which represents 25,000 academic and general staff employed in the Australian tertiary education sector.

We are very concerned to learn that your government recently introduced industrial legislation (Bill 28) which will give college and university-college managements the unilateral right to override workload and other key provisions contained in institutional collective agreements.

The extant collective agreements are the result of a fair and lawful process of negotiation between the College Institute Educators' Association, its local affiliates and college/university-college management. Bill 28 has the potential to create industrial unrest at these workplaces by sanctioning management breaches of collective agreements, compromising the notion of industrial fairness and the level of trust between CIEA, faculty and management. The Bill will also negatively impact on the quality of education offered by British Colombia's colleges/university colleges, resulting in increased class sizes and less time for interaction between students and faculty.

On behalf of the NTEU, I strongly urge you to consider withdrawing Bill 28 to ensure industrial fairness and maintain the quality of education within the province.

Grahame McCulloch
General Secretary, National Tertiary Education Union, Australia

We are writing to express our deep concern at the legislation your government has imposed that would effectively destroy collective bargaining in the higher education sector. The exercise of the unilateral powers given to college and university presidents and boards would have a very deleterious effect on students, faculty and the province as a whole. Collective agreements arrived at by a process of good faith bargaining are contracts that governments should honour as binding.

The AUT would like to associate itself strongly with the extremely serious concerns expressed by our Canadian and American colleagues about Bill 28. If this legislation is not withdrawn, we would have to consider recommending to our members not to take up positions in, or to collaborate with, British Columbian institutions in which the principles of free collective bargaining are not honoured.

We urge you to withdraw Bill 28 in the interest of fairness and the future of higher education in B.C.

Paul Cottrell
Acting General Secretary, Association of University Teachers, United Kingdom