London

Western faculty set strike deadline of Nov. 9

The union representing faculty at Western University has set a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m., Friday, Nov. 9. If a tentative agreement hasn’t been reached by then, the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA) says professors will walk off the job.

If a tentative deal isn’t reached, professors will walk

Professors at Western University could walk off the job if a new labour deal isn't reached by Nov. 9. (Dave Chidley/CBC)

The union representing faculty at Western University has set a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m., Friday, Nov. 9.

If a tentative agreement hasn't been reached by then, the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA) says professors will walk off the job.

In that event, "all courses offered at Western (would) no longer have their course instructor in the classroom" said UWOFA president Dan Belliveau.

The determination of a strike deadline comes after faculty voted 94 per cent in favour of job action in September should negotiations fail produce a tentative agreement.

'We do not want a strike'

Despite the strong strike mandate, Bellieveau said negotiators will remain at the table in search of a deal.

"We remain cautiously optimistic that we will arrive at a fair and equitable deal for our members. We do not want a strike and we are working very hard to get to an agreement."

A spokesperson for Western University, Keith Marnoch, said the administration also wants to avoid a strike. But, he added, contingency plans are being developed to "limit any inconvenience that a labour disruption could cause in the event we do not reach an agreement."

Belliveau said the main issue in the dispute is job security, particularly for "our precariously employed contract faculty members."

He said contract professors must apply on a regular basis for their jobs, "year by year, term by term. And we're looking to provide greater security for their positions."

Belliveau said Western has had more than $500 million in operating surpluses over the last six years, and can afford to give full time jobs to more instructors.  

Precarious employment

The declaration of a strike deadline coincides with the release of a new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that shows a majority of faculty appointments in Canada — 53.6 per cent — are contract positions, and about 80 per cent of them are part-time roles.

A co-author of the report, Erika Shaker, told CBC's London Morning program Thursday that precarious employment for professors is not a new development.

"Contract faculty appointments have been the majority of faculty appointments in Canada for the past 10 years, so this is a systemic reliance on contract work."

Shaker said at Western University 65 per cent of instructors are contract faculty compared to 44 per cent at Queen's.

Shaker said there is a wide variation in the use of contract appointments among Canadian universities — Quebec has the highest percentage at 61 per cent and PEI has the lowest at 39 per cent.

"So what this suggests is that we're really looking at individual institutional choice to go this route."

Shaker said contract appointments involve lower rates of pay and significantly less job security.

The CCPA report recommends:

  • The need for more and better data on faculty appointments via Statistics Canada.
  • A more comprehensive approach to a sustainable funding model for public universities.
  • Better labour laws that ensure the provision of high-quality jobs.
  • Students demand they be taught by secure professionals.

Corrections

  • A former version of this story suggested that professors, librarians and archivists could walk off the job. A correction has been made to reflect that only professors would be impacted by a potential strike and not librarians and archivists.
    Nov 01, 2018 6:58 PM ET

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Ennett

Morning News Editor

Gary Ennett is a veteran editor and reporter. He’s been with CBC since the opening of the London bureau in 1998. His email address is gary.ennett@cbc.ca

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