UNB strike 'affects us in a big way,' student says

Dozens of students at the University of New Brunswick went to a meeting on the teachers strike that began on Monday.

Premier David Alward says it's not the time to get involved in dispute

Students adjust to faculty strike at UNB 2:12

Dozens of students at the University of New Brunswick went to a meeting Thursday to discuss the teachers' strike that began on Monday. 

The student union took questions from about 60 students on why contract staff aren't still teaching and what will happen to students who can't stay on campus after May 1.

The union had few concrete answers for students. 

Ben Whitney, the student union president, said it was about hearing the students' voices. 

"Well, we want to hear students' concerns and the best way to [hear] what folks are feeling, so that's the intention," he said. 

Sandy Sutherland, a forestry student from River John, N.S., is worried that if the school year spills into the summer, he'll run into financial troubles. 

"It affects us in a big way. Our income through the summer, that's our main source of finances for the school year and paying for school," he said. 

The student union said real difficulties will set in if the strike lasts more than one month. It's pushing for student rebates if the strike stretches on. It tweeted the university might compress the semester. 

The student union said classes will begin 48 hours after teachers and UNB agree on a deal. 

Alward won't get involved

Earlier Thursday, Premier David Alward says the provincial government isn't about to get involved in trying to settle the strike at this time.

Striking chemistry professor James Tait says everyone loses in the UNB faculty strike. (CBC)
​Alward said it's not time for the government to get involved at this point.

"As a government, we've been active," said Alward. "We provided a mediator to help bring the groups together to find a solution.

"So the steps that need to take place right now is the university and the professors need to try to find that solution."

The two sides are far apart on the issue of compensation as the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers demands comparable pay and working conditions to other mid-sized Canadian universities.

The university is offering a 9.5 per cent pay increase over four years. The AUNBT is seeking a pay increase of about 23 per cent over the same time period.

About 550 full-time professors are on the picket line at both the Fredericton and Saint John campuses. Chemistry professor James Tait says there are no winners in the dispute.

"I would much rather be teaching right now," said Tait. "I have a course I could be teaching at 2:30 this afternoon and the students I should be teaching are getting, in a lot of ways, screwed — and I'm sure they're using a lot worse language than that to describe the situation."

Tait says salary is only one of the issues.

"The administration wants to remove language from the agreement that would tie our salaries to comparably sized universities across Canada, not just in the Maritimes, and the union believes that's just unreasonable."

There are no negotiating sessions scheduled.

UNB president Eddy Campbell said if the strike continues for four weeks, it could put the term in jeopardy for students.

Campbell has suggested it may require back-to-work legislation to end the impasse given how far apart the parties in salary negotiations. The legislators who would have to pass such a law don't resume sitting until Feb. 4.


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