Nfld. & Labrador

MUN sessional instructors vote for strike, saying their pay and conditions are 'disgusting'

A group of about 360 lecturers and research fellows at MUN hope to force their employer back to the table with a better deal next month.

LUMUN still hoping to avoid work stoppage, back to the table in January

A group of about 360 lecturers and research fellows at MUN hope to force their employer back to the table with a better deal next month. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

A group of about 360 lecturers and research fellows at Memorial University hope to force their employer back to the table with a better deal next month.

Martha Wells, president of the Lecturers' Union of Memorial University (LUMUN), says their members have voted in favour of a strike mandate.

"We just got a very clear message from our members," she told The St. John's Morning Show. "There's no doubt at all in the union leadership that the members are ready to walk if need be."

Wells said the group has been asking for better wages and increased job security. Sessional lecturers are not permanent employees, and must apply for contracts every four months. They teach about 40 per cent of all students at the university.

According to the union, an instructor with a full load of six courses per year makes around $30,000 a year.

Wells said their union sits tied for last among universities across the entire country for sessional instructor wages.

"It's disgusting. We know the province has cut funding to the university, but we also know there is money in the university. It's visible."

Over a year and a half of talks

Both sides have been in talks for more than a year and a half. A conciliator was appointed in August, but didn't succeed in reaching a deal. The union says MUN put forward its final offer in October, but it wasn't acceptable.

She said the lecturers don't want to see a disruption for the students, but are willing to strike during the winter semester if they have to.

Before that happens, Wells expects to be begin talks with MUN again in January.

"We know they are coming back to the table. Whether or not they offer us something we can live with is the question."

MUNFA offers support

MUNFA, the university's faculty association, has also been in negotiations with the administration, asking for more job security for its many members who are contract instructors, among other things.

Robin Whitaker is the president of MUNFA, Memorial University's faculty association. (Paula Gale/CBC)

Following an unsuccessful conciliation process, which ended at the beginning of this month, the university asked the union to return to the bargaining table and try to work it out. MUNFA accepted and discussions will likely happen in January 2019, according to a statement emailed to CBC News by the union's president Robin Whitaker on Wednesday.

Whitaker said MUNFA "shares LUMUN's commitment to improved conditions for contingently employed university teachers," and the union is pleased to see LUMUN's negotiating team received strong support from its membership.

"They have our support when they return to the table and we hope that they too conclude bargaining successfully," Whitaker wrote.

When contacted by CBC News, Memorial University declined to comment.

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