June 18th, 2024

The provincial government owes students answers


By Lethbridge Herald on March 12, 2022.

Editor:

These past four weeks have been an unfortunately historic moment for the University of Lethbridge. The hallways of our institution have been absent of students since Feb. 10because of a strike and lockout by the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association and the University of Lethbridge Board of Governors. This job action has put students in an indescribably difficult situation, atop mounting challenges that we’ve already been facing in the form of tuition increases and class disruptions due to COVID-19. 

It is incredibly frustrating as a student to have no formal power or influence to return to the classroom that we are paying to be in. 

However, this article is addressed to those who do have power. We at the University of Lethbridge Students’ Union (ULSU) have been led to suspect that the provincial UCP Government has played a substantial role in these stalled negotiations and subsequent job action. In 2019, the UCP passed the Public Sector Employers Act, which allows the Minister of Finance to issue secret orders to bargaining teams at post-secondary institutions. The Minister doesn’t have to tell anyone what’s in the order, and the employer is not allowed to tell anyone either — even the union they are negotiating with.

Students have been hitting a wall trying to look for an explanation as to why the two parties have been unable to come to an agreement for the past 600 days. As the President of the ULSU, I firmly believe, and demand to find out, if bargaining mandates imposed by the UCP government is the explanation for why we are currently in a strike. 

The U of L has a unique context – we are the smallest of the comprehensive academic research universities, we’ve been adversely and uniquely affected by COVID-19 as Alberta’s destination university, and we’ve been hit hard by cuts to our provincial operating grant. Other Albertan institutions like Mount Royal University and the University of Alberta may have been able to navigate mandates given by the provincial government (though students of those institutions were holding their breath for a potential strike as well), because they have not had to sustain the unique challenges that the U of L has, and they have perhaps more malleable budgets than we. 

Nevertheless, the U of L is now the only Albertan institution currently experiencing a strike. Why? The Board of Governors likely can’t work past, (and can’t disclose) the provincial government’s bargaining mandates.

A case study into how damaging secret bargaining mandates are to universities can be seen in Manitoba. In 2016, a 21-day strike at the University of Manitoba was aggravated by a secret bargaining mandate, which the Manitoba government was later forced to admit was unconstitutional. In Fall 2021, UManitoba experienced an even longer 35-day strike, again aggravated by a secret mandate that could only be addressed by binding arbitration. It seems to students that the Alberta government is determined to learn nothing from Manitoba’s mistakes.

I am wracking my brain as to why I’m still here, out of class, four weeks into a strike. There is no question that both negotiating teams are made up of well-educated, competent, and strong individuals. There is no question that our institution is able to navigate its financial challenges, while maintaining their commitment to people, access, and quality. The only question that I cannot get an answer to, is whether or not, and how far the provincial government has overstepped in the labour negotiations at my university. 

The provincial government owes U of L students answers. Everyday that the strike continues, is another day of frustration, uncertainty, and hardship for students, and transparency is the very least that we’ve come to expect from our provincial government. If the government wants to control the U of L’s bargaining, they need to come forward and be accountable for the effect it has had. Students need to know.

Holly Kletke

President of the University of Lethbridge Students’ Union

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buckwheat

The government owes you nothing. In fact you owe the taxpayers to do the best you can, be productive and contribute to society. For two years you were locked out at home, you should be asking the ULFA why didn’t they negotiate then. Instead they are using you for leverage. Wake up.

Last edited 2 years ago by buckwheat
OpinionIsMine

You do realize that “negotiation” has been ongoing for 2 years, right? It is a fact that the University negotiation team kept changing and stalling for 2 years.

TonyPargeter

Is this who YOU were focused on when you were young buckwheat? The “taxpayers?” And are you saying, bold-faced, that getting a university education is NOT being “productive and contributing to society?” THIS is exactly why your cohort is seen as “anti-intellectual.”
We all remember the kids who sneeringly considered “book-smart” to be inferior because it wasn’t THEIR skill set. This is the problem with conservatives while we’re on the topic AGAIN. They have no class, no generosity, no ability to just give credit where credit is due. The most churlish, petty, and mean-spirited among us.

buckwheat

You have jumped the shark in so many ways you have reduced your comment to 3 am babble. t is everyone duty to be productive and contribute to society, not the governments duty. Sounds like university dogma to me and comments from someone that never signed the front of a check.

ElizabethHolthe

I would be cautious in labelling all “conservatives” as having no class, generosity or ability to to give credit. I know some very kind and generous conservatives who have done good things and never asked for credit. I don’t believe labelling or division will help end this dispute or make this situation better. While the original comment was mean spirited and unfounded, we don’t have to respond with divisive responses. We need all – conservatives, liberals, NDP – to put the pressure on our current government and the board of governors to end this and get us students back in class.

Fedup Conservative

I certainly agree with you. Our family spent countless hours volunteering for the Lougheed and Getty governments. A brother in-law voluntarily flew the government plane for them, never got paid a dime. Lougheeds energy minister Bill Dickie was a brother in-law of one of my uncles. Dad donated around $30,000. to their party over the years and Klein almost killed him with his health care cuts.
The fact is as the conservative MLAs taught me these are not conservatives they are Reformers and their is a huge difference. They are only interested in trying to get votes from the rich by helping them steal the peoples oil and tax wealth and that’s exactly what they are doing. They have done absolutely nothing to benefit the average Albertan, as us seniors have seen.
If they were true conservatives they would be collecting proper royalties and taxes like Lougheed and Getty did and looking after all Albertans like Lougheed did and Norway and Alaska are doing. .

TonyPargeter

That’s a lovely egalitarian idea but I must point out that this is why, despite being demonstrably far more reasonable and humane, and therefore far more suited to the pressing times, progressives teeter on the edge, with a majority of provinces under conservative “governance” and many states being “led” by braying, backwards Republicans. Because of the cheerful but naive positivity of statements such as “we need all–conservatives, liberals, NDP–to put the pressure on our current government and the board of governors to end this…. ” you surely realize that this is not how it works with conservatives, right?! That the UCP are dedicated to breaking unions on principle, and want to privatize everything including education and health care, so this dispute is a direct result of both of those aims, so are obviously not even remotely receptive to students’ needs. They never even MENTION students in their campaigns for a reason….

SophieR

I am afraid there is no such thing as a ‘conservative’ anymore.

TonyPargeter

United Conservative Party. Conservative Party of Canada. They removed “progressive” from their name, but what name would you use instead?

TJohnston

“buckwheat”, Ms Kletke has the courage to sign her name to her letter, and you post a reply not using your real name. You have abdicated any right to lecture.

buckwheat

So suggesting someone bleating for government help, has a duty to be productive and contributing to society is now a lecture. Further stating the government should take care of it suggests the mindset at the university. How dare the board be responsible with the funding they receive. Should this have been settled sooner, yes, the government has nothing to do with it. With this crowd of commenters I will remain anonymous thanks.

Last edited 2 years ago by buckwheat
TJohnston

Ms Kletke simply stated that students, and I would add to that list, deserve answers from the Provincial Government. To frame her comment as “bleating for government help” is a mischaracterization.

Not only does Ms Kletke have the right to express her opinion but as the elected President of the Students’ Union, she has that responsibility. So, if you really want to engage in a debate on the merits rather than slinging insults in the direction of a young person, then address her central point — and that is the Provincial Government provided, without public disclosure, a negotiating position to the UofL BOG. If anyone or any group deserve to be called sheep in this context, it certainly isn’t Ms Kletke.

With reference to your “lecture” comment, I was using the word not as a noun but as a verb, as in to lecture. Synonyms I could have used include, to hold forth, to expound, to advise, or to expatiate, although your comment was not long enough to warrant use of the last one.

Last edited 2 years ago by TJohnston
ElizabethHolthe

Holly was “bleating” for the UCP government to be transparent and own if they have created a mandate that is inhibiting the strike to be resolved. If you knew Holly, then you would be aware that she is a hardworking contributing member of society. Your comments indicate ignorance.

Fedup Conservative

Why is it that if anyone is smarter than you and makes more money than you did they are your enemy? Of course you aren’t smart enough to understand what they went through to get their educations running up thousand of dollars in student loans like my grandson is doing trying to become a lawyer.
Eight years of university with these fools cutting their minimum wages and raising fees by 40% and that’s okay with fools like you. Did you even finish school?

TJohnston

To your point — labour markets are not perfect, but in general they do reward those who bring more value to the table as compared with those who bring less value to the table. So why is it that so-called “conservatives”, who express faith in the market place, moan when workers who bring more value to the table than they do earn more than they do? Maybe they should reflect on their life choices and accept what is.

Fedup Conservative

Good question what these fools aren’t smart enough to understand is the better educated earn more money and pay more taxes so these fools won’t need to. These phony conservatives aren’t conservatives they are reformers and there is a huge difference.
If they were true conservatives, as the former MLAs from the Lougheed era taught me, they would be collecting proper royalties and taxes and running this province properly like Lougheed did, and Alaska and Norway are doing.
Instead they are helping their rich friends steal the peoples oil and tax wealth using it to try to buy votes. We have got to stop electing these fools.
It’s no secret as lawyers, accountants, oilmen , bankers and former MLAs will tell you Notley was on the right track, trying to get our revenues back up to the Lougheed levels, which is why Albertans want her back.

ElizabethHolthe

You are mistaken! The governments works for its constituents. It always owes us honesty and transparency. It owes it to every person in this province. If they have a secret mandate that is inhibiting the proper settlement then they need to be held accountable. The ULFA is not using its students as leverage. They are trying to negotiate a fair deal for EVERY MEMBER of the faculty. The disparity and inequity in wage and workload as well as removing the ability to have a say in governance is not fair.
It is you who needs to wake up!

TonyPargeter

Your responses are also “divisive” it should be noted. Hard not to be when conservatives themselves cultivate division as blatantly and as assiduously as they do, is it not?

Fedup Conservative

You do know of course that these aren’t conservatives they are reformers and are nothing like the conservatives we proudly supported under Lougheed and Getty. If they were they wouldn’t be helping the rich steal our oil and tax wealth. Lougheed certainly didn’t and neither is Alaska and Norway. They studied Lougheed’s system and look at the wealth it has created for the people.

Fedup Conservative

Those of us from the world of finance aren’t going to forget the $800 billion we figure Albertans have been cheated out of by these phony conservatives, Reformers, starting with Ralph Klein and now Kenney is still doing it. Cutting $9.4 billion off corporate taxes to benefit his rich friends, trying to buy their votes while treating our doctors, nurses, teachers and students like third class citizens has got to stop. We know Lougheed would never have been this stupid.
Now watch these mindless seniors, as my friends call them , attack me for telling the truth.

TonyPargeter

Thanks Holly. My sympathies, sincerely. The anti-intellectual UCP has set out to ruin universities in the province actually, especially the ones with a liberal arts focus like U of L, and U of A, probably because it’s in Edmonton where the despised NDP is strong. And what is the use of “art” after all?!
https://albertapolitics.ca/2022/03/exceptional-tuition-increases-to-hammer-university-of-alberta-students-in-12-professional-programs-this-fall/

Fedup Conservative

Wouldn’t you think after all this time these ignorant seniors would finally wake up and realize that they might be the ones who are wrong and the rest of us are right, but no they have to defend the Conservative name and don’t give a damn who the phony conservative is hiding behind it.

Don Braid in a recent Calgary Herald proved what fools these guys truly are. In every part of Alberta people are wanting rid of their hero Jason Kenney while they continue to kiss his ass. I wonder what it’s like to be that stupid?

ElizabethHolthe

Thank you Holly! Very well written! I am deeply disappointed to know that there is a law that allows secret mandates. I believe it’s time to rally the students and rise up!