Instructors at two Vancouver area colleges are battling corporate greed in a fight for fair wages, and control over their work. Members of locals 9 and 11 of the Education and Training Employees Association (ETEA) are the instructors at Hanson International Academy in New Westminster and Vancouver English Centre in Vancouver. The employer forced them into strike action on August 2.
These instructors have dropped many bargaining demands in an attempt to reach a settlement. They are fighting for a living wage, pay for preparation time and copy right over their own teaching materials.
Hanson International Academy is able to provide college level courses due to their affiliation to Cambrian College. At Cambrian College the faculty are paid many times more than the instructors at Hanson, even though they teach the same courses. A similar wage differential exists between these instructors and those in the BC public college system, again even though the courses count equally towards an undergraduate degree.
Shahrzad Hamed works at the Vancouver English Centre, where she teaches English as a second language to children. She explained to Socialist Worker how her and her colleagues are “standing up for what is right and what is fair.” Other schools pay their instructors more for less work. Vancouver English Centre is also treating it’s students unfairly. There is no refund for time without instructors, and “there are no teachers so whatever they are doing in there is not what the students paid for.” Shahrzad pointed out that, “without teachers there are no other jobs, no doctors, nothing.”
Mike Bisson teaches at Hanson International Academy in New Westminster. His employer wants to take away the instructors’ “moral rights” to their teaching materials. The school demands that it own the lesson materials created by its instructors, and it would keep that ownership if the instructor leaves the college. “If I write a song, I should be able to sing it,” Mike explained. The other two issues are wages and preparation time. The instructors at both colleges are only paid for the time in the class room. Mike works about 3 hours preparing for every hour in the class room. In order to keep the lessons fresh, Mike works every evening after class. “I’m not just using a twenty year old text book. The coup in Turkey happened on a Friday and we covered it in class on the following Wednesday.” When you factor in preparation time, Mike and his colleagues are paid around $10/hour. And they live in the most expensive place to live in the country.
The president of local 11 of ETEA is Anthony Fawcett. His local certified just over a year ago with a 90% certification vote and they had a 100% strike vote. “Our business instructors have calculated that Hanson International Academy has revenues of around $9 million a year. They spend three per cent of that on salaries. Our wage demand would increase that by two to three per cent.” In other words, their employer is refusing to pay their workers a living wage even though it would still allow them to keep over 97 per cent of their revenue.
Hanson International Academy has been equally callous towards its students. They have suggested to their students that they should move to Ontario to take courses at their other campuses and provided a list of publicly available grief counsellors.
ETEA is a member of the Federation of Post Secondary Educators, (FPSE) which unites unionized instructors at most of the post secondary institutions in BC. FPSE members should build support for this strike. If these employers succeed in continuing to pay sub-standard wages and control the teaching materials of their instructors, the public post-secondary institution won’t be far behind in trying to get similar concession from their employees.
You can join the picket lines in Vancouver with local 9 at 250 Smithe Street and in New Westminster with local 11 at the River Market (by the entrance at the bridge over the rail way).
This article was edited on August 9, to make minor corrections and to correct the estimated fraction of revenue that Hanson International Academy spends on wages.