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University of Lethbridge faculty members go on strike

Members of the University  of Lethbridge Faculty Association picket outside the school on Thursday. Members of the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association picket outside the school on Thursday.
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It wasn't the news faculty, students or the University of Lethbridge were hoping for, but at 11 a.m. on Thursday, faculty began legal strike action and are picketing the school after talks with the university's board of governors broke down.

"Our members have been in negotiations for over 600 days, and have seen minimal movement at the bargaining table regarding outstanding key issues such as working conditions, collegial governance, and equitable pay and benefits," read a University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA) release.

This is the first time faculty have gone on strike in the history of the University of Lethbridge. The collective agreement expired 587 days ago. ULFA president Dan O’Donnell has said the issues involve "equity, parity and respect."

O’Donnell says the U of L was unable to provide them with proper management rights ahead of the strike.

"We found, constantly, over the years that at this university the leadership really think of themselves as bosses, they tell you what to do, they tell you when you're going to tell. It's frankly, a bad way to run a university and it's really unfortunate that they decided to take their stand here," said O’Donnell.

Nearly 500 faculty members have been without a contract since June, 30, 2020.

The biggest obstacles in contract talks are working conditions, collegial governance and equitable pay and benefits.

“We really do hope that they'll consider the position, think about the students and really, work with us to come to the settlement that most other universities can do,” said O’Donnell.

The faculty association has argued its professors are already underpaid compared to other similarly-sized post-secondary schools. The U of L board of governors, however, says it has lost millions of dollars in funding from the provincial government and is not in a great financial position.

"We share students’ concerns about the possibilities of a delayed semester, which is why we are encouraging (that) both parties work together at the bargaining table and create a deal that is fair to faculty members, a reflection of the fiscal realities in the province, but also takes into consideration the impacts of a strike on student learning," said Alberta’s Minister of Advanced Education, Demetrios Nicolaides.

"I know other unions and entities have been able to find agreements with respect to collective bargaining so I’m hopeful a path forward can be created."

During the faculty strike, students will not have to attend classes, complete assignments, or engage in any faculty supported activities.

The University of Lethbridge Students’ Union says they're worried for the health of students.

"We have had to deal with online modality, going in person, going back online, so another disruption to classes is going to have a deep effect on students," said student union president Holly Kletke.

In response to the faculty strike, the U of L said in a statement:

"The university remains committed to negotiating a fair collective agreement with the association. We appreciate the anxiety and inconvenience this circumstance causes for students, and remain committed to doing our utmost to achieve resolution through a good-faith collective bargaining process as quickly as possible."

The strike will impact nearly 9,000 students at the university.

"If they can get this sorted and it goes by quickly, fantastic, honestly, the faster it's over the better, but if it takes longer for things to get ironed out, I can wait, said Angie "Nikoleychuk, a fifth year psychology student at the U of L.

The university will formally close all workplaces to faculty members at 11 a.m. on Friday.

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