Prince George, B.C. – Hundreds of people turned out for a rally today in support of UNBC’s striking Faculty Association at the Prince George Courthouse.
It included speeches and words of support from unions and teachers from across the country including Canadian Association of University Teachers vice-president James Compton.
“People are really paying attention to what’s happening in Prince George. They’ve seen other administrations try to impose an austerity agenda that really harms the core mission of teaching and research and they don’t want that to happen here either.”
UNBCFA president Jacqueline Holler, who joined English professor Kevin Hutchings in a stirring rendition of Pete Seeger’s union pleaser “Solidarity Forever,” said the support locally and from across the country has been greatly appreciated.
“It’s been tremendously meaningful and we’re tremendously grateful to all these people.”
Despite the support, she admits talks have broken off, with no deal currently in sight.
“We want a fair deal. We’re really looking for an individual adjustment, a labour market adjustment which some of the faculty here today would actually receive no increase in their compensation.”
(When it comes to wages, UNBC has offered a 5.5% increase over five years).
Is Holler concerned the strike could wipe out the semester?
“No faculty strike in Canada has ever wiped out a semester but I do know that students are concerned about that and frankly given what we’re seeing from UNBC administration, I’m afraid we’ll be at this next week.”
Physics professor Matt Reid received his undergraduate degree from UNBC, noting the high level of instruction helped him to secure scholarships throughout his schooling.
He says it also helped improve the school’s reputation, though he expressed concern moving forward, without a fair wage increase.
“I want this university to be able to launch careers indefinitely. I want people who graduate from here to have the degrees mean something. And I want it to always be ranked number two in the country, or even number one. So we need to retain the talent we have and attract new talent.”