UNBC strike cancels classes on Tuesday

University classes will be canceled on Tuesday due to the labour strike of the UNBC Faculty Association, which includes tenured and tenure-track faculty members, senior lab instructors, librarians, and contract academic staff.

University of Northern British Columbia Faculty Association's chief negotiator says administration would only consider its latest offer if members would delay taking to the picket lines.

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With the deadline for a strike looming, the Faculty Association's bargaining committee presented a proposal at about 1:30 a.m. Thursday "that we hoped would be a breakthrough on salaries," Ted Binnema said in a posting on the UNBC FA website.

"Unfortunately, at 2:45 a.m., the Employer stated that they would consider that proposal only if we agreed to delay the start of the strike," he said. "Given the number of unresolved issues that remained and the significant distance between positions, postponement was not an option."

By 8 a.m. Thursday, the picket lines were up at the main UNBC campus and the Wood Innovation and Design Centre in Prince George and at the UNBC campus in Terrace.

Binnema went on to say the bargaining committee understands the impact the strike would create and regards the move as a last resort.

He also claimed administration presented a proposal early in the negotiations that would allow the the university to break its contractual obligations to some of the Faculty Association's members but did not provide details.

"On the basis of legal opinion, we have consistently and repeatedly told the Employer that it is simply impossible for us to agree to this demand as presented," he said. "This major sticking point remains unresolved."

And Binnema said the sides remain at odds over how the early-retirement package offered to professors and instructors earlier this year is calculated and reaching an agreement on the issue will be essential to reaching a deal.

"Some of the crucial issues in this strike might seem arcane to those outside the academy, but they are central to the functioning of universities," he said. "The Employer has tabled a number of proposals on matters such as tenure that are crucial to the way universities traditionally operate. These proposals are unacceptable to the FA because they would diminish collegial governance and would make UNBC an unattractive place for faculty to work - even if our salaries were higher."

UNBC administration, meanwhile, posted a detailed summary of its latest proposal on the university's website.

It said funding beyond the provincial mandate of two per cent per year for three years can only be introduced by negotiating savings in the collective agreement and on that note costed and proposed about $1 million in savings

With those saviings, tenure and tenure-track faculty could see a 15-per-cent salary increase over three years and as much as 28 per cent for a full professor, 22 per cent for an associate professor, and 18 per cent for an assistant professor.

Further, it said senior lab instructors, librarians and part-time instructors will six-per-cent increases on average, "again in line with the provincial mandate."

Pickets remained in place on Friday and there were no talks.

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