British Columbia

UNBC faculty signs collective agreement ending lengthy labour dispute with university

The University of Northern British Columbia's faculty members set up picket lines on university campuses in November 2019, leaving about 3,500 students out of classes for three weeks. Paul Siakaluk, the president of the faculty union, says the collective agreement will improve labour relations within the university.

The 4-year contract raises annual salaries by 2 per cent, retroactive to July 2019

UNBC interim president Geoffrey Payne, left, and Paul Siakaluk, the president of UNBC Faculty Association union, have reached a collective agreement after a year of arbitration.. (University of Northern British Columbia)

The faculty association of the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) has reached its first collective agreement with the university administration since 2014, putting an end to unrest that has led to two strikes and closed classrooms.

The university with campuses in Prince George and other communities in northern B.C. said in a news release this week that the agreement — covering nearly 500 faculty members such as professors, lecturers and librarians — includes a general wage increase of two per cent annually, and a redesigned compensation framework that is aligned with other post-secondary institutions across the province.

The new contract will be retroactive to July 1, 2019, and will last until June 30, 2023, an outcome of a year-long arbitration with the university after the unionized faculty members launched a three-week strike in November 2019 that left roughly 3,500 students out of class.

Paul Siakaluk, the president of the faculty association, says his members will be more fairly compensated and have fewer labour disputes with the university administration now that there is a collective agreement in place.

"That change in salary structure is a big part of this agreement," Siakaluk said.  "We'll be able … to stay on a par with our competitor colleagues at other universities."

"Faculty members will know that they're getting a fair compensation adjustment every year," he said. "This will be a big attractor for our future colleagues."

UNBC interim president Geoffrey Payne says the latest deal with the faculty association helps to improve labour relations within the university.

"It's evident that things were strained … and it's no fault of anybody — it's just where we were," Payne said. "The fact that we were able to do it and negotiate it and then have it voted and ratified … is historic and very positive and very exciting for UNBC." 

The UNBC Faculty Association was incorporated in 1994 under B.C.'s Society Act, and was certified as a labour union in April 2014 under B.C.'s independent tribunal Labour Relations Board.

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With files from Daybreak North and Andrew Kurjata


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