Union takes legal action against NWCC

Last Thursday, the Union of Academic Workers applied for legal action against the Northwest Community College.

Last Thursday, the Union of Academic Workers applied for legal action against the Northwest Community College.

The union claims NWCC violated Section 23 of the College and Institute Act when it tried to  reconcile it’s budget with funding received from the provincial government.

Section 23 of the Act relates to the advisory role of the education council in providing advice to the board of governors regarding

the development of educational policy, including the addition of new courses and programs, as well as the removal of courses and programs.

“We want the employers to do the right thing,” Cindy Oliver, president of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC, said.

“They are violating section 23 of the College and Institute Act which clearly states they must consult with the education council before they make changes.”

The FPSE claims NWCC administrators did not consult with the education council prior to making changes in course and program availability.

The application for legal action apparently caught NWCC administrators off guard.

“We’re not sure where this is coming from,” NWCC President Denise Hemmings said in a press release.

The changes Oliver referred to came about as NWCC administrators, in an attempt to reconcile their budget, made changes to the availability of several programs and courses.

A total of 24 courses or sections of work for faculty members, including laboratory classes, in the University Credit Program in Terrace, Oliver said.

These cuts affect close to 30 full-time instructors and close to a dozen part-time instructors.

“That’s significant for students,” Oliver said.

It’s a small college and those numbers will have an impact on the students.”

The crux of the legal action is the cuts were made without consulting the education council.

“Apparently the Academic Workers Union feels we have not adhered to the act,” Henning said.

Exactly where the cuts are being made is difficult to say, Oliver admitted, given the fall semester has yet to begin.

Of the courses cancelled, 13 are in the Arts and 11 are in the Sciences, Oliver said.

Three of the science courses are second year biology courses with a laboratory component.

Oliver also pointed to some computer-related courses and some First Nations-specific programming in Prince Rupert that has been cancelled.

As of yet, no courses have been cancelled at the Smithers campus.

Despite the application for legal action, Henning said the issue was an internal matter and it would not affect the start of the fall semester in September.

“It’s  business as usual when classes commence in September,” Henning said.

“We want to assure students coming to campus in a couple of weeks that they should feel secure that instructors and staff are on the job and there to help their learning experience.”

Oliver also said the September semester, at present, was not in jeopardy.

The college has 10 days to respond to the application.

The legal action launched by the union is not without precedent.

In 2005, the FPSE took similar legal action to the B.C. Supreme Court and the judge ruled in favour of the union, Oliver said.

“That decision made it crystal clear that administration needs to consult with the education council,” Oliver said.