How UNB strike will affect STU

Empty classrooms will be the result if UNB faculty decides to strike (Megan Cooke/AQ)
Empty classrooms will be the result if UNB faculty decides to strike (Megan Cooke/AQ)

A faculty strike at University of New Brunswick may be on the horizon and some worry consequences will spill over to St. Thomas.

It wasn’t long ago that St. Thomas was facing its own union battles which ended in a lockout.

“It was a bit of a mess to be honest,” said Sean Thompson, a STU alumnus. He was in his second year during the 2008 lockout and strike. “We were in a state of limbo.”

The Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers has been working with UNB since March to resolve issues pertaining to the quality of the institution, such as faculty wages. A strike vote is taking place on Wednesday and Thursday this week, said Miriam Jones, president of the association.

Jones said the union’s concern is that the priorities of the administration are overtaking the quality of education.

“It’s about our reputation. It’s about the status of UNB. The faculty is very worried about the direction the university is going.”

Thompson said when St. Thomas’ faculty union, FAUST, went head-to-head with the university in 2008, the resulting strike lasted for a month. Students were afraid they would lose the whole semester.

“There was a lot of uncertainty around the student body,” said Thompson. “There was really split sympathies between the university and the professors.”

St. Thomas’ faculty contract is also expiring this year. FAUST was unable to comment since negotiations are still going on.

Justin Creamer is in his third-year at St. Thomas pursuing an honours in economics and a major in mathematics. Since STU doesn’t offer all the math courses he needs, he takes some of his mandatory classes at UNB, sometimes two per semester.

“I need these courses,” said Creamer. “Let’s say they decide to strike and as a result STU students can’t access those courses. It could affect whether I need to stay here for the summer for intersession, stay for a fifth year and try to get those courses, or take six courses next semester.”

Creamer is considering the influence UNB might have over STU. Since the schools share so much, St. Thomas may hold UNB as a model for their own faculty negotiations.

“Over the past few years there’s always been that talk of our faculty going on strike, so it could bleed over to here. Which I hope it doesn’t, for the love of God.”

Jones said AUNBT talks to faculty from all over the province, especially FAUST. She hopes UNB will look to STU’s history and learn from the repercussions of the lockout.

“We’re getting a lot of practical advice from [FAUST],” said Jones. “This is an issue for the whole post-secondary sector in Canada.”

Creamer is confident UNB is working hard to resolve this issue and keep students in classes. He says STU can learn from UNB’s mistakes and victories. However, he is aware of the gravity of the situation.

“Of course I’m worried. Will I have to rethink my whole plan?” asked Creamer. “There’s just so much stuff going on right now it’s sort of hard to see the long term. I just want to get through the last few days of classes.”

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