Calgary

MRU student leaders blame Alberta government cuts to post-secondary for potential faculty strike

MRU student leaders are blaming the provincial government for a potential faculty strike or lockout.

Province says it is not involved in the negotiations with the university and its faculty association

Mount Royal University has been in contract negotiations for nearly two years with the faculty association, and students are concerned that a potential work stoppage could disrupt their semester. (easyuni.com)

Mount Royal University student leaders are blaming the provincial government for a potential faculty strike or lockout.

The university has been in contract negotiations for nearly two years with the faculty association. Last week, the association told CBC News that the two parties were in a deadlock — and a work stoppage is likely in the weeks ahead.

The government says it's not involved in the negotiation process, but Students' Association of Mount Royal University president Spirit River Striped Wolf says he disagrees.

"The provincial government has allowed these institutions to increase their tuition and fees, by an average of 7 per cent, so this is a ripple effect," he said. 

"The government ultimately controls the structures and the foundations of the post-secondary education system. Otherwise, why call it a publicly funded institution? The government has a huge part to play when it comes to tuition and when it comes to collective bargaining."

In 2021, MRU's Campus Alberta base grant was reduced by 2.5 per cent, which was a loss of $2.3 million for the institution.

The previous year, in 2020, the province cut its funding for post-secondary grants by a total of 6.3 per cent.

Striped Wolf said students are exhausted, and in addition to the back and forth between in-person and online learning, they now have to face the possibility of a paused semester. 

"It has to do with the government policy. When we talk to them about tuition increases, they say the same thing, 'Oh, it's your board of governors who are increasing your tuition. We're making cuts to their grants, but it is the institutions.' But universities are publicly funded," he said. 

In a written statement, Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said he shares students' concerns about the possibilities of a delayed semester.

"Which is why we are encouraging both parties work together at the bargaining table and create a deal that is fair to faculty members, a reflection of the fiscal realities in the province, but also take into consideration the impacts of a strike on student learning," he said. 

"In the event strike action should take place, I expect the institutions would have contingency plans to address any impact to students."

Striped Wolf said the students' association is calling on the Alberta government to restore post-secondary funding to "appropriate levels" and for the MRU Board of Governors to revoke the tuition increases.

"So Albertans can continue to easily access and benefit from a high-quality system of higher learning," he said. 

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