UNB strike unlikely to hurt students, national group says

The Canadian Association of University Teachers does not expect the strike by University of New Brunswick faculty to have long-term consequences for students.

Canadian Association of University Teachers unaware of significant long-term impact from any strike

Harry Forestell speaks to James Turk, of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, about the strike by UNB professors, teaching staff and librarians. 4:34

The head of the Canadian Association of University Teachers does not expect the strike by University of New Brunswick faculty to have long-term consequences for students.

James Turk, executive director of the group that represents staff at more than 120 universities and colleges across Canada, says while there are immediate concerns, once an agreement is eventually reached, things return to normal.

"As far as I know, no student in Canada has ever lost a semester or a year because of a faculty strike," Turk told CBC News on Monday after more than 1,000 professors, teaching staff and librarians at UNB hit the picket lines over pay and working conditions.

"Faculty, because they love teaching and they love their students, typically what happens is they get back to work, there are opportunities for students to make up time that was lost. So there are really minimal long-term consequences," Turk said.

UNB president Eddy Campbell has said there is a danger of students losing their term if classes don't resume within four weeks.

Campbell suggested back-to-work legislation from the provincial government may be required to end the impasse.

Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Jody Carr has not said whether the government would consider back-to-work legislation.

"We are monitoring the situation closely, and we continue to encourage both parties – the administration and the faculty association – to make every effort to resolve this dispute with minimal impact to students," Carr said in an emailed statement on Monday.

While the UNB administration and faculty are both holding their positions, Turk believes they are both concerned about the students and the university's reputation, which he contends should lead them to an agreement, likely sooner than later.

'Stressful,' student says

Still, some students like Erin Quinn are worried.

"It could affect us more if they run the semester longer," said Quinn, who is from P.E.I. and is in her third year of kinesiology.

"But if they condense it, that just puts a lot of pressure on us students, cause we still have to cover all the material, and it's going to be a lot of material to cover in a short period of time," she said.

"And I know a lot of my friends are trying to graduate. It's really stressful more than anything."

The strike affects more than 9,000 students.

Quinn, one of about 286 Islanders studying at UNB, is hoping for a quick resolution. She says the UNB Student Union has been doing a good job of keeping students updated on the situation.

UNB has suspended all classes at its Fredericton and Saint John campuses for the duration of the legal strike. Some online courses and those offered in Miramichi will continue.

The Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers is seeking a 14 per cent increase over two years. University officials have said that's too much.

Under the existing contract, the starting salary for an assistant professor in 2009 was $60,948 and the salary floor for a full professor was $94,397.

​The salary ceiling for a professor at UNB currently stands at $150,510 under the current contract.

About 60 per cent of the faculty currently earn more than $100,000 a year, according to UNB's administration.


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