Sudbury

Laurentian faculty union threatens strike if talks don't go well

The Laurentian University Faculty Association is threatening to strike if conciliation with its employer don't go well Tuesday. Members are trying to negotiate more "competitive" salaries and enable professors to have more flexibility when it comes to distributing workload.

Members of the Laurentian University Faculty Association haven't had a contract since June 30

Karen McCauley, a member of the bargaining committee for the Laurentian University Faculty Association, gives a speech at Sudbury's Labour Day events in Bell Park. (Samantha Samson/CBC News )

Students heading back to Laurentian University in Sudbury might have an unwelcome surprise later this year.

The Laurentian University Faculty Association (LUFA) is threatening to strike if conciliation with its employer doesn't go well on Tuesday.

Bargaining members will meet with a mediator and the school's administration Tuesday at 11 a.m. to discuss future contracts.

The union's contract ended June 30, and since then, Karen McCauley says it's been difficult to schedule communication with school officials.

"It's been hard to get them to the table at this point," says McCauley, who's a member of the bargaining committee.

"July has historically been a break for vacation, but getting them back in August, they only came back at the end of the month. And then even getting dates in September...building any momentum has been very difficult."

More money, flexibility for profs

LUFA is primarily arguing for "competitive" salaries and for professors to have more flexibility when it comes to distributing workload.

"It's collegial governance and the ability for faculty members within their own departments to distribute the work amongst themselves according to their expertise and abilities," says McCauley.

"We're a university that loves to speak well of all of its assets and accomplishments. But if you don't have quality relationships with your faculty, if you don't invest in human resources...you don't have very much at all."

'We all have a vested interest'

McCauley teaches in the school's social work department. She says this is a prime example for her students on relationships between employers and unions.

"For me, this is walking my talk and demonstrating that we all have a vested interest in contributing to the vision of this university," she says.

It's still unclear as to how students will be affected should the union strike. McCauley says she's remaining optimistic the two parties will come to an agreement, but students should be ready for anything.

"It would be a disruption of classes," she says.

"I don't like to dwell upon that because I hope we don't go there, but I think it's naive if people think it absolutely couldn't happen."

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