University of Lethbridge faculty issue Thursday strike notice, administration applies for lockout

Faculty at the University of Lethbridge have voted by an overwhelming majority in favour of a strike. In response, the University has applied to the labour board to delay the strike and to institute a lockout on campus.

The university is also applying to have strike action delayed

University of Lethbridge classes could cease by Thursday at 11 a.m. if no agreement is reached. (Michael Warf)

Faculty at the University of Lethbridge have voted by an overwhelming majority in favour of a strike and have filed strike notice, the faculty association president says.

In response, university administration has applied to the Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) to have the strike delayed and to institute a lockout on campus.

The labour relations board confirmed Monday that 92 per cent of the faculty who participated in the vote supported job action. About 500 members, or 87 per cent, took part.

"I think the strength of that vote speaks volumes," said Dan O'Donnell, president of the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association.

Strike notice must be given a minimum of 72 hours prior to beginning a strike. If no settlement can be reached with administration, the strike will begin this Thursday at 11 a.m., said O'Donnell.

He says any classes in session during that time would be allowed to be completed by instructors as part of their strike duties. 

On Monday afternoon, the university released a statement in response to the strike notice saying it "expects a prolonged strike, which could threaten our semester."

In it, the university called the faculty association's recent decisions "counterproductive to our ability to make progress."

The university also stated it has "submitted an urgent interim application" to delay strike action until the labour relations board deals with the "bad faith" bargaining complaint filed against faculty association last week. It also applied for a campus lockout for all faculty members. 

O'Donnell said in a written statement Monday that the faculty will continue to "both defend itself at the [labour] board and stand-up for students in the event of a lockout. "

"We continue to believe, however, that our collective energies would be far better spent at the negotiating table."

O'Donnell said the labour board is collecting evidence and commentary on the bad faith filling.

Dan O'Donnell, president of the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association, says the strike will begin at 11 a.m. Thursday if no settlement can be reached with administration. (Jennifer Dorozio/CBC)

Negotiations break down

University administration and faculty have not been able to reach an agreement after the faculty's collective agreement expired on June 30, 2020, nearly 600 days ago.

On Jan. 17, mediation broke down and entered a two-week cooling-off period before the strike vote was taken. Over two days last week, the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association took a vote, with the supervision of the labour relations board.

Compensation, salary and more representation of faculty on decision-making committees involving matters like budget and faculty benefits are key features of the negotiations, Joy Morris, a professor of mathematics on the faculty negotiation team, previously told CBC news.

Faculty say they earn up to 17 per cent less than faculty at comparable universities.

The university called faculty association's salary demands "out of touch" in its Monday statement.

"ULFA's repeated demand for double-digit percentage salary increases — nearly three times greater than those already accepted by nurses and public sector workers, and after both sides had negotiated to within a 1% salary gap — is out of touch with today's economic and workplace realities."

Faculty and administration met again Monday for further negotiations.

Students are concerned about the financial and mental health effects of a semester interruption, says Holly Kletke, president of the University of Lethbridge Students' Union. (Richard Lee-Thai)

Student union concerns

Students are concerned about the impact on their mental health and their finances if classes are interrupted, says Holly Kletke, president of the University of Lethbridge Students' Union.

"I think it's really sad to see that students are having to face yet another disruption to classes after a turbulent two years," she said.

"We just want a normal and well-supported semester."

So far, classes have been entirely online since classes resumed Jan. 5 after the holiday break. Student were set to return to campus at the end of February.

Kletke says she wants the university to conduct a student impact survey in order to better support them during this term.


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