Negotiations Between UNBC & Faculty Association Reach “Impasse”
Prince George, B.C. – Negotiations between the University of Northern BC’s Faculty Association (UNBCFA) and UNBC have reached “an impasse.”
That from UNBCFA president Jacqueline Holler during a news conference this afternoon.
“Today we stand at an impasse at compensation and benefits. We have adopted a very gradualistic approach since our members rejected the employer’s proposal in September, 2014,” she says. “At this point with the Canada Winter Games concluded, the executive of the UNBCFA has called for a strike and 72 hour notice has been served.”
Holler says there will be consequences should a deal not be reached before 8 a.m. this Thursday.
“Our members (343 full time and part time faculty members, senior lab instructors, librarians, and archivists) will withdraw all teaching, research, and professional services from UNBC operations in Prince George, Quesnel, Terrace, Fort St. John, and Vancouver. This will be a full-scale withdrawal of services and our members will not return to work until an agreement is concluded.”
The union has been working without an agreement since the last one expired in June, 2014.
“What’s brought us to this point is more than 9 months of bargaining during which we faced an employer who bargained in a way that would take us further and further away from what is normal in the university sector,” says Holler. “What we’re looking for is to bring our agreement into line with what’s normal.”
She says a report released by independent arbitrator Vince Ready in February 2014 revealed UNBC has the resources to provide a pay increase.
“Mr. Ready said that the association had presented persuasive evidence as to the UNBC’s faculty low to bottom salary standing relative to the salaries received by faculty at other representative institutions performing similar work or arguably lesser work.”
Holler adds “he also indicated UNBC was capable of re-ordering its spending priorities in order to fairly compensate UNBC faculty.”
She says issuing strike notice was not a decision taken lightly considering the impact it could have on students.
“At UNBC, we’re a small university with small classes, we know our students by name and we definitely held back as long as we could thinking about the disruption this would cause for them and we’re deeply sympathetic to that however we’re in a tough spot. We’re at the point we have to increase the pressure on our employer.”
A strike isn’t a foregone conclusion however, as talks are scheduled to resume between both sides Wednesday morning.
But if a deal isn’t reached, the school will remain open.
“The university doesn’t close. The doors don’t lock, there will be a reduction in some services for sure,” says vice-president of External Relations for UNBC Rob van Adrichem.
He agrees compensation is a major sticking point.
“It’s a critical thing to understand as a public university we’re within the provincial government’s bargaining mandate and so that has been a major factor in our ability to propose a compensation package.”
van Adrichem adds a strike is the last thing they want to have happen.
“There’s some momentum I would say building in Prince George. We just reached out to 2,500 athletes and another 1,000 officials to say if you come to UNBC we’re going to give you a tuition credit,” he says. “The university is eager to have an agreement.”