After two years without a contract, and months of negotiations with administration, faculty members at the University of Lethbridge are now on the verge of a strike. All while simultaneously facing a possible lock out enforced by administrative officials.
Dan O’Donnell, the president of the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association, shared that 87 percent of the faculty voted, with an astounding 92 percent of them being in favor of the strike. The University administration has 72 hours to reach an agreement, otherwise the strike begins Thursday at 11 a.m.
“Our position has been all along that there’s plenty of space for settlement if the Board of Governors side would only consider moving and really looking creatively at where the problems are. Unfortunately, over the last few years, we’ve found that they’re very reluctant to come to the table. When they come, they don’t really have much in the way of suggestions for solutions.” O’Donnell said.
Following the budget cuts imposed by the UCP provincial government, the school was forced to cut several teachers. Due to these same circumstances, the school is also unable to pay the staff at a comparable wage to other establishments across Alberta. Currently, they are making approximately 15 percent less than the average university professor.
Despite making a significantly less amount, the university is asking that the faculty pay back anywhere from 4-10 percent of their wages back.
In lieu of the outcries for job and financial security by faculty, and the school’s inability to provide that because of a lack of funding, the two sides have reached an impasse. However, they are not the only people suffering from this situation. Students have also come forward to express concerns about their academic future. One student, who would prefer to remain anonymous, explained that the uncertainty is terrifying.
“We aren’t sure what is fact from fiction, and the professors we turn towards to answer these questions don’t know any more than we do about the issue either. There are no good contingency plans if a strike is placed because classes will need to stop.” They said.
Another, who would also like to stay anonymous, explained in detail how this has directly affected them.
“Unfortunately, U of L does not have enough staff to run the class. As a result, they are being cancelled or no longer held. Many students cannot fill the requirements to graduate. This means students will take more years of schooling, which will cost a lot more.” They said.
An email was sent out to students, which was received quite poorly. Especially given that there was no sender listed, and therefore, no one to send further questions to. This email denies allegations from faculty, and threatens the consequences of the strike as possibly being the loss of a semester. Meaning, no grades, graduation, and job placements for plenty. The email finishes by stating that the university will no longer be addressing the situation publicly.
“I think the phrasing only raises more questions no one seems to have the answer for, and is meant to strike fear into the students and staff to think twice about it.” An anonymous student said.
Last Sunday, an estimated 200 students gathered to show their support for their professors. The university has denied request for comment.
O’Donnell states that the faculty donate their time to teach, and that the university charges tuition, but members aren’t paid for a lot of that. Which isn’t a part of negotiations, but is done out of passion and care for the student body and subjects.
“The result is that we have been pushed to this point. This really does mark a historic occasion in the history of this university. But when this is all over those same faculty that have been volunteering their time for decades, in order to help student’s finish their degrees, are going to be there for the students once again, to make sure that this semester is disrupted as little as possible due to any kind of strike or lockout involving the negotiations.” O’Donnell said.