The fall school term was more stressful than ever for students. While new and returning university students began to feel the pressure of university courses, assignments and exams, they were exposed to an additional stressor, manifested in the ongoing labor negotiations between the University of New Brunswick (UNB) and the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers (AUNBT) Union. However, a truce between the two sides ultimately led to a smooth end of term for students.
With the beginning of a new term comes a new round of turbulence for students, as the threat of strike has become a reality, thanks to a recent strike deadline set by the AUNBT. If no collective bargains are met, UNB professors’ union AUNBT will strike on Jan. 13 at 12:01 a.m.
Attempts to reach the AUNBT President, Miriam Jones, for comment, were unsuccessful.
While the strike notice increases the pressure on the university to get a deal done, Peter McDougall, Assistant Vice President of Human Resources at UNB, assured us that negotiations would continue, as per the status quo. “We will continue with the approach as we have all along,” says McDougall, “with the focus of reaching an agreement without a work stoppage.” McDougall stated that the preferred course would be to avoid a disruption at the university.
The question on many student minds is, in the event of a strike, how would the term be adjusted to make up for any lost class time? McDougall was able to provide some insight into how this would be handled. “The university would need to consider how best to deal with any time lost if a disruption were to occur,” says McDougall. Any considerations or decisions would be “made to ensure the impact on students’ education is minimized,” says McDougall.
McDougall was also quick to add that “there has never been a lost term at any university in Canada, during a labour dispute,” and that nobody is looking to be the first.
While this bargaining is ultimately between the university and the professors, it is important to the students who are caught in the middle, says, UNB Saint John Student Representative Council (SRC) President, Ashley Macosky.
“Do not pay [your] tuition,” says Macosky. “In the event that, the worst case scenario [were to occur and] the university semester is cancelled, we cannot guarantee that students will get their money back.” While he is still hopeful that a deal can be reached before the deadline, Macosky did add, “There is wiggle room in the semester to accommodate about a two week strike. Exams would be pushed later into April, so any travel plans that [students may have] for late April may have to change”.
Macosky wants to remind students that during a strike “there won’t be any educational interaction between students and professors.” However, “at the end of the day, students are still responsible for their learning, so I encourage them to continue [with their readings] and to continue to use the services provided by the university,” such as the writing centre and tutoring services.
Macosky also provided comment on student loans and the affect that a strike would have on those. “We are looking into questions about the [student] loans that the government just gives right to the university,” says Macosky, “though when it comes to student loans and a short strike, nothing would really change. Everybody would still pay tuition.
If a longer strike were to happen, Macosky says, “as soon as a strike occurs, all deadline dates become null and void. The university senate, both in Saint John and Fredericton, would then decide on new deadlines. So all of the deadlines, such as add/drop, tuition, all that sort of stuff, gets shifted around,” says Macosky. “So if you have paid, you just won’t have to stand in line. If you haven’t, one of the things we will be asking the university, is that on those [new] deadlines the staff in the finance office stay a little longer, as it is not the students fault that school is not going on.”
“We pay our tuition, we come to class. It is between the university and the professors themselves, and we are caught in the middles, so it is unfair for us to adjust to their schedule, when it is their problem”.
Macosky added that he has also been working with Ben Whitney, UNB Fredericton Student Union President, to ensure there is a united front amongst students at UNB. “Myself and Ben have both spoken with the university administration and the union,” says Macosky, “and have told them we would prefer [for them to] figure this out without any kind of strike, as [this seems] unfair to the students.