Union leaders denounce ‘anti-democratic’ Bill 18

BURNABY—The presidents of the three largest unions in the post-secondary sector – the Federation of Post Secondary Educators (FPSE), the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU), and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) – have united in opposition to the B.C. Liberal government’s anti-democratic amendments to the College and Institute Act and the University Act, being debated in the legislature as part of Bill 18.

If passed in the spring sitting of the B.C. legislature, Bill 18 would ban union activists from serving as elected employee representatives on college and university boards of governance. The legislation would also allow government appointees on these boards to remove an elected employee or student representative from the board by a two thirds vote, and prevent elected representatives from serving as board chair.

“This legislation, if passed, would infringe our members’ constitutional right to freedom of association,” says FPSE president Cindy Oliver. “To discriminate against an employee because they are active in their union is punitive and anti-democratic, and we will challenge its legality if passed.”

“The government is being hypocritical if it tries to use conflict-of-interest as a reason for this legislation,” says BCGEU president Darryl Walker. “They stack the Industry Training Authority board with industry representatives, without apparent conflict. Union activists would be no more in a conflict position than regular employees who are union members.”

“This legislation takes the unprecedented step of granting un-elected board members the power to remove elected employee and student representatives,” says CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill. “It’s like allowing Cabinet to remove an MLA from their elected position. This legislation fails the fairness test, by any measure.”

Bill 18, the Advanced Education Statutes Amendment Act, includes amendments to various post-secondary legislation, including the College and Institute Act and the University Act. The bill was introduced in the fall 2011 sitting of the legislature, but was not debated. It remains on the order paper and is expected to be debated in the legislature during this session.

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