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'It is the last resort': UNBCFA says headway appeared to be made before talks stalled

Strike enters second day as deal has yet to be reached between UNBC and its faculty

There's still no deal between the UNBC Faculty Association (UNBCFA) and UNBC but the faculty association says progress appeared to be made before talks stalled while strikes enter day two.

In a message from UNBCFA Chief Negotiator Ted Binnema to members, he described what they say happened between the two sides at the bargaining table. 

"On Nov. 4, progress appeared to have stalled," his letter reads. "But in the following two days, we appeared to be making significant headway. However, progress remained slow."

He says the UNBCFA tabled a proposal that they hoped would be a breakthrough when it came to salaries at 1:30 that morning but at 2:45 a.m., UNBC told the association that would only consider the proposal if they agreed to delay starting a strike. 

"Given the number of unresolved issues that remained and the significant distance between positions, postponement was not an option," Binnema wrote. 

The UNBCFA says they realize that undertaking job action is a "grave thing" to have to do but that it's the last resort. 

"We acknowledge that doing so greatly inconveniences the very UNBC students to whom we are so committed, and our valued non-FA colleagues at UNBC," the letter adds. "We are grateful for all the support that has been shown to us so far."

Binnema writes the employer (UNBC) presented a proposal that would allow them to break their contractual obligations to some of the UNBCFA members. 

"On the basis of legal opinion, we have consistently and repeatedly told the Employer that it is simply impossible for us to agree to this demand as presented. This major sticking point remains unresolved," Binnema added.

The strikes officially began yesterday after the UNBCFA served strike notice on Monday (Nov. 4).

As a result, UNBC said the following will take place during the duration of the job action: 

  • No classes will take place
  • The Library, dining hall, and other non-academic student services will remain open
  • The Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre will remain open
  • We understand transit buses will not cross picket lines, so buses will stop at temporary stops on University Way

The association says there remains a large gap in the methodology and principles for the costing of the Early Retirement Offer and Voluntary Exit Package and agreements on the two issues are essential if there is to be any progress on a new compensation structure.

The biggest point of difference is salaries, which the UNBCFA says they have been working on for the better part of a decade which have included three rounds of bargaining, two arbitrations and a strike. 

"All our resolve has been and is directed towards one goal: a settlement that will ensure serene labour relations at UNBC for the foreseeable future. The UNBC FA is eager to achieve a Collective Agreement that provides as much assurance as possible that students,"

In a statement of their own yesterday, UNBC says they offere the following as of Wednesday night (Nov. 6):

  • A new Senior Lab Instructor Rank IV, creating additional career-growth opportunities for senior lab instructors
  • A new compensation model for faculty, built upon principles established jointly by the Employer and FA
  • A new career track for teaching-focused members (new designation - Senior Instructors), reducing the need for repeating term appointments
  • Close the salary gap between our Tenured and Tenure-track faculty and the 50th percentile of our comparator universities by approximately 90% in just one round of bargaining
  • Average salary increase of 15 per cent over three years for Tenured and Tenure-track Faculty

"The Employer stands ready to continue bargaining and remains committed to reaching an agreement at the table," the statement ends. 


Jess Fedigan

About the Author: Jess Fedigan

Jess Fedigan graduated from BCIT’s Broadcast and Online Journalism program in 2016 and comes from the Lower Mainland.
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