Legal action has been filed against Northwest Community College by its Academic Workers Union.
The college received notice earlier this week from the AWU there, the union that represents academic instructors at the college. The union alleges the college board failed to adequately consult the education council in its course content and program planning for the coming school year.
The college was given about three weeks to respond, said NWCC president Denise Henning, adding the college’s lawyers are looking into the action filed now.
“The action comes as a surprise to the Northwest Community College (NWCC), since consultations with both stakeholders and the board were conducted during the deficit mitigation process,” said Henning in the release. “I know that we consulted both the educational council and all stakeholders throughout this difficult process, but apparently the academic workers feel we have not adhered to the act.”
The legal action was filed under section 23 of the College and Institutes Act, a section which legislatively governs the process involved with program and course content and delivery and the education council’s role in its planning.
But the president of one of two unions affiliated with the college’s Academic Workers Union says Henning’s response doesn’t make sense.
“For Mrs. Henning to say she doesn’t know where the court application is coming from, that she’s surprised by it, I find that very strange,” said Cindy Oliver, president of the B.C. Federation of Post Secondary Educators. “The act does require that administrators must get input from their education council when they are contemplating program changes.”
Oliver alleges that college administrators did not follow due process.
“There are going to be some programs that are not going to be offered anymore and these changes are going to have serious effects on students,” she said. “Administrators made those decisions without the proper consultations.”
The college’s education council is responsible for overseeing academic and technical training.
“They have a very serious role to play in the governance of the institution and they’re an important governing body,” said Oliver.
This action is separate from the one the union filed against the College earlier this year, which resulted in an informal Labour Relations Board hearing this spring.
That action dealt with the method with which layoff notices were distributed to instructors and was dealt with under the AWU’s collective agreement with the college.
This action deals with legislation and is therefore dealt with under B.C.’s court system, Oliver explained.
“We’ve sorted out the collective agreement issues and we need to sort this out now,” said Oliver.
“The senior administration have taken this ready fire aim approach,” she said. “It is important that they follow the law.”
In the release, Henning said that this action will not affect courses being offered this fall.
“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,” Henning said. “These are internal matters that will be resolved in due course.
Editors note: A former version of this story said the college received the legal action filed Aug. 16 and had ten days to respond. However, yesterday college president Denise Henning clarified the initial college press release, saying the notice was delivered off on the evening of the 20th and the college has three weeks to respond from the date of issue, which is Aug 16.