Enhanced mediation begins between University of Lethbridge, faculty union

Faculty at the university have been without a contract for over 600 days; their collective agreement expired on June 30, 2020.

It’s been five weeks since the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA) voted to strike, and on Tuesday, a mediator stepped in to try to help the association reach an agreement with the University of Lethbridge Board of Governors.

At least two additional days of mediation are expected, according to the ULFA.

If the two sides still can’t come to a resolution, the mediator is expected to suggest a deal and then both sides could agree or reject it next week at the latest.

As of Tuesday, faculty at the university have been without a contract for 623 days; their collective agreement expired on June 30, 2020.                                              

GROWING CONCERN FROM STUDENTS

University of Lethbridge Students' Union president Holly Kletke says the strike has been exceptionally difficult on students.

"We're hoping that there is some sort of resolution or answer after this week," Kletke said.

Stephanie Bell, a second year kinesiology student, says she's worried how a deal might impact her course load.

"Everybody is just so worried that when we go back they're just going to say, 'Alright, your midterms are tomorrow,' when we've all been away for a month and nobody really remembers what's going on," said Bell.

"I'm worried they're going to be cramming everything in, especially with exams and projects, I just don't know," said first-year digital audio arts student Justin Yang.

"Our program is very oriented, it's not weekly stuff, it's just projects, so I don't know how I’m going to be assessed."

Yang also voiced concern over continuing to pay rent and paying for parking passes.

"I'm paying money right now to be here, and I’m not doing anything, so it kind of sucks," he said.

The students' union is asking professors and instructors to give a fair workload if and when students return to class.               

The union is also running a campaign asking students to encourage the two sides to reach an agreement.

"We're asking students to write letters directly to the negotiating teams to urge them to make this a successful week and come to an agreement," Kletke said.

It remains unclear if the remainder of the semester can be salvaged.

"ULFA is saying the university is not willing to negotiate on anything and the university is saying that they aren't willing to push on anything, so it seems very unlikely that they're actually going to come to a conclusion," Bell said.

Kang says he's optimistic that they won't cancel the semester.

"There's never been a cancelled semester, right, so I don't think they want to be the first," he said.