On Monday at 7:15 a.m., before going to work, members and supporters of the St. Thomas Staff and Administrative Union stood in the Vanier Hall parking lot with picket signs to show they want more negotiations with the administration.
“It’s frustrating,” said union member Carrie Monteith-Levesque. “We’ve committed to this process for over four years and we’re willing to continue to try and reach a negotiated first collective agreement.”
Last week, the staff union took a strike vote, which rejected the administration’s final offer and if they do not go back to the table, then the union will strike within 24 hours of a rejection.
“It doesn’t benefit anyone to negotiate against themselves so we are hoping that we have some momentum, there are some good exchanges – like we had before it ceased,” said Monteith-Levesque.
The union and the administration’s lawyers met this week and were unable to set a date for negotiation, said union president Jennifer Burry.
“Nothing productive has happened at all,” said Burry. “Nothing came of that conversation, no dates were set.
“We don’t want to take job action, however being on strike alert let’s everybody know what’s going on. Here today we are talking to faculty, students and staff to let them know our situation and make sure they know what’s going on.”
Although the administration said they have a contingency plan in place and things would continue as normal if there was a strike, former faculty union president and current president of the Canadian Association of University Teachers Robin Vose thinks otherwise.
“STU staff do a remarkable and too-seldom recognized amount of work on this campus,” said Vose. “Faculty rely heavily on staff to assist with the compilation, drafting, printing, copying and distribution of correspondence and course materials. I don’t know how we can be expected to continue our research and teaching without that assistance.”
Vose said faculty will not be the only ones affected in the case of a strike, but students as well.
“Grant applications likely won’t get filed, and letters of recommendation to grad school may be delayed. Student services, computer and classroom technical support, class cancellation management, and all sorts of other logistics will suffer, not to mention the longer-term impact on curricular management and recruitment.”
Vose said individual students and faculty will have to make their own decisions about crossing the picket line. Classes may continue, but he said he’d be surprised if there was no “serious disruption.”
Vose was at STU during the faculty lockout in 2008.
“It was frustrating. It was challenging. It was cold,” said Vose. “It permanently affected a lot of us who had worked so hard to obtain jobs that we really cared about, only to be told, essentially, that our employer didn’t think we were worth what we were asking for.
“But it was also rewarding to stand up for ourselves, for what we believe in, and it built a great sense of community among the faculty. I think it was a truly historic moment at STU and you can still see the aftermath of it everywhere.”
Vose said the strike brought the faculty union together and its members grew more committed. They learned to take care of each other for a united front to “stand up for our principles”.
Vose thinks it’s taken too long for the staff union to get a negotiated contract.
“The employer here seems to have taken advantage of the workers’ goodwill, patience and optimism by dragging things out this long,” said Vose. “STUSAU members are committed to the good of the university and in particular to its students. They have waited and waited for what is due to them. It’s time for a fair settlement now.”
Clarification: In an earlier version of this story, Robin Vose was stated as the former president of FAUST. He is also currently the president of the Canadian Association of University Teachers.
Show Comments (1)