University of New Brunswick students continue their semester this week, after being locked out of classes for three weeks due to stalled contract negotiations between the university and its faculty association.
Last Monday provincial post-secondary education minister Jody Carr ordered both sides back to the table with a mediator. By Thursday a tentative deal was struck.
Details of that deal came out Friday, including a big one for many students: March break will be canceled.
Social media was abuzz with talk of the news. Some students were relieved to be back, but many more were upset to have their March break plans ruined.
Mohannad Saadeh was one of those students. His father is coming to see him for the week, departing from his home in Amman, Jordan. Saadeh is upset that they wont get to spend as much time together or travel.
“They messed up the plan. Basically, it’s the students who are going to face the consequences of the strike,” he said.
He said that the time off for the students during the strike is not the same as the March break. Students often make plans for that time. Unlike with the strike, the break has a definite end, making plans and travel easier.
“What were the students doing during the strike? Not a lot. Some people liked it but most people hated it. At least after a while they hated it. You have no job, no plans, nothing to do… and we couldn’t leave either,” he said.
Kevin Bos, a fourth-year physics student, isn’t upset but understands those students who are. He said he’s just glad to be back.
“Personally, I’m not too bothered by it, simply because I had nothing planned…The fact that many students will have already made plans for the break is something that the university should have considered, but in the end they’re just trying to minimize how much class is missed.”
The university also announced classes will likely extend until April 17, and the exam period will now be from April 22 to 30. Previously classes were taught up to April 9.
UNB administration says they are looking forward to a return to the “vibrant UNB campus life,” that has been almost non-existent in January.
“With this settlement in hand, we can now turn our attention back to our students and focus on improving on our stature as one of Canada’s great universities,” UNB president Eddy Campbell said in a statement.
The agreement in essence postpones talks of a wage increase for two years. The faculty gains language in their contract that compares UNB wages to other universities of comparable size, but at the cost of only seeing a 2.5 per cent annual increase until arbitration takes place in the third year of the four-year contract.
“They knew what was going to happen – both sides… They tried to get what they want, and they couldn’t get what they want. After the third week they knew the strike would end and they’d put [negotiations] off… They didn’t really lose anything,” said Saadeh.
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