Defending Our Rights

February 12, 2010

Dear Faculty Member,

I’m writing to inform you of troubling events that are unfolding between the KFA, the Board of Governors, and Kwantlen administration. These stem from various “governance” documents that could erode or eliminate parts of our current collective agreement.

Our collective agreement first became a target when we received a letter on December 1, 2009, from the Chair of Kwantlen’s Board of Governors, Scott Nicoll (view letter). In his letter, Mr. Nicoll asserted that, as a result of legislative changes governing Kwantlen as a special purpose teaching university, Kwantlen’s Senate may have the ability to overrule provisions in our collective agreement.

Mr. Nicoll’s assertions are provocative and disturbing. The Board of Governors believe provisions currently covered by our collective agreement are now subject to change by a majority (50 percent plus 1 vote) in Senate. It is important to note that, by legislation, faculty members do not comprise the majority at Senate (a total of 35 seats, with 16 seats held by faculty members).

Our faculty association is challenging the steps taken by the Board and Kwantlen’s administration. In response, we have

• emphasized that the legal opinion provided to the Kwantlen Board does not support the view expressed that Senate decisions take precedence over the existing collective agreement.

• noted that the Board of Governors’ approach contravenes a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that gave unequivocal support for collective bargaining as a fundamental right.

• grieved at Step 3 (which was denied by the employer) and are currently pursuing arbitration.

• sought and have received the support of our provincial and federal allies—the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators and the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

• informed members of the issues as they unfolded through a series of special bulletins (Jan 14, 2010 & Dec 10, 2009) .

There is no question that both the actions and policies initiated by administration threaten what should be a balanced and collegial relationship between the faculty and administration. We don’t need to head in that direction. It generates unnecessary conflict and serves only to polarize good working relationships on our campuses. However, we do need to send a strong message to the administration that our existing collective agreement was negotiated in good faith by both parties (Kwantlen Faculty Association and Kwantlen administration) and that the only acceptable changes to our agreement are to be negotiated, not imposed through unilateral actions couched in “governance.”

Every member needs to understand what is at stake when the administration decides that change at our institution is a one-way street. Faculty may unknowingly be drawn into decisions that erode our bargaining rights. This model of decision-making undermines a core value at Kwantlen: the ability of faculty to participate fully in the decisions that make our institution a success. Anything less than that is a giant step backward. Over the coming weeks, with your support, we will work to ensure that our collective agreement is respected.
We’d like to hear your views on this matter. You can contact the KFA at sharemyviews@kfa.bc.ca or contact your KFA Executive Representative.

If you wish to see the relevant materials, go to http://www.kfa.bc.ca/defendingourrights.

Sincerely,

Teri Van Steinburg
President, Kwantlen Faculty Association