Instructors Begin Strike action at University of Northern BC

UNBC strike - Nov 7 2019 - 2

[Reported by Hillary Johnson CFTK]


For the second time in four years, faculty at the University of Northern BC are on strike.

Picket lines went up this morning in front of campuses in Terrace and Prince George, as the Wood Innovation and Design Centre in downtown Prince George.

And while both sides say they want a quick end to the dispute, they're still far apart on the key issues in dispute.

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The weather was pretty miserable, but that didn't stop members of the UNBC Faculty Association from picketing along Keith Avenue in front of the Terrace Campus today, as they and their fellow association members in Prince George began job action to demand better working conditions.

The instructors say they're among the lowest paid university faculty members in Canada and it's time to address that -- but it's not just about money.

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"There are some disturbing trends in university education today, whereby priority is given to hiring very short-term faculty members with very little job security and it's a scary prospect to not know whether your job will continue or not," explained association member Amy Klepetar, who is an assistant professor at the Terrace campus and also coordinates the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

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[Amy Klepetar - UNBC Faculty Association - Nov 7 2019 -- credit: Hillary Johnson CFTK]

The university says it tabled an offer which included average salary increases of 15% over three years for tenured and tenure-track faculty --- a new compensation model for faculty, built upon principles established jointly by the employer and the faculty association --- and other improvements.

However, the faculty association says there remain a number of problems, including an entirely new demand from the employer regarding tenure and promotion.

Both sides agree on one thing -- they want this strike to end soon, because they know a prolongued strike will impact students.

"Anytime class is missed, it affects both the students and the professors, because we want to be there and the students want to be there, and we're all in professional programs:  nursing, social work, and teacher education," said faculty association member Ed Harrison, who is Bachelor of Education coordinator for the northwest region.

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[Ed Harrison with fellow UNBC Faculty Association members on strike at UNBC Terrace campus - Nov 7 2019 -- credit: Hillary Johnson CFTK]

This is the second strike in four years at the university after a two-week walkout in March 2015 ended with a five-year contract backdated to 2014 that included a 10% raise over the life of the deal.

Both the administration and the faculty association say they remain ready to negotiate an end to this dispute -- but when that might happen is anyone's guess.