UNB faculty on strike, locked out

FREDERICTON (CUP) — Full-time professors and librarians at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) are now on strike.

After months of meetings, UNB and its full-time faculty were unable to reach a collective agreement as of Sunday night. The Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers (AUNBT) set a strike deadline for 12:01 am Monday morning.

“For a long [time] it seemed like we were heading towards a strike, but it really did seem as though the last few days that [the university] was making an effort and they were back at the table,” said AUNBT president Miriam Jones.

“So I was really disappointed. I’m not sure why they were going through those motions and making the same financial offer they made . . . it was almost like they were daring us. It was really odd,” Jones said.

Picketing began at all UNB campuses Monday. Jones said negotiations will continue throughout the strike. However, there are no new meetings scheduled at this time.

She said there was nothing the union’s bargaining could have done to prevent the strike.

“I honestly think there was nothing our teams could have done. They were very patient, professional people with no walking out,” Jones said.

The university said in a release that they’re still committed to reaching a deal.

“UNB remains committed to achieving a new collective agreement that serves the broad interests of students and the university community and that improves the current contract with faculty,” the release read.

UNB Student Union (UNBSU) president Ben Whitney said that the UNBSU is disappointed with the news and are planning their next steps.

At the UNBSU’s council meeting Sunday night, a motion was passed for the UNBSU to remain neutral during the strike.

“We feel students will be best represented if we continue to work with both sides for a number of reasons,” Whitney said.

The UNBSU has been encouraging students not to pay tuition until the situation is resolved.

On Tuesday morning, UNB announced it was locking out faculty. UNB president Eddy Campbell said they decided to lock out the professors to avoid further complications, such as professors crossing the picket line.

“We just thought it’s clear we need to be able to say that ‘no full-time faculty are at work during this time,’” Campbell said.

“[I]t’s very unusual and New Brunswick seems to be the only province where administration seems fond of locking out their staff. They did it at St. Thomas a few years back and that didn’t go very well for the administration,” Jones said.

Both sides of the ongoing collective bargaining negotiations between the Mount Allison Faculty Association (MAFA) and Mount Allison University have been closely following developments at UNB.

“We fully support our colleagues at UNB, and we wish them all the best in their attempt to resolve their differences with the administration,” said Loralea Michealis, President of the Mount Allison Faculty Association.

Michaelis noted that many of the issues viewed with concern by Mt. A faculty, such as, “a re-prioritization of buildings and administration over the academic mission” are also factors in the labour dispute at UNB. She said these trends have been apparent at universities across Canada.

Karen Grant, Mt. A’s Vice-President Academic and Research said, “we hope that they can reach a settlement, but my attention is primarily on [reaching] a settlement here.”

With files from Chris Balcom.

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