June 23rd, 2024

ULFA strike rally draws support

By Lethbridge Herald on February 19, 2022.

Herald file photo by Al Beeber Enthusiastic faculty supporters wave to drivers passing by University of Lethbridge Faculty Association picketers near the U of L during a rally earlier in the strike.

Al Beeber – Lethbridge Herald

Now in their second week of a strike, members of the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association got a morale boost Friday during a day-long rally.

Several speakers gave encouragement to the strikers during a raucous assembly near the main entrance to the university. With food, music, and placards, strikers listened intently while others waved at passing traffic as they walked along the major westside thoroughfare.

Faculty association president Dan O’Donnell said numerous groups joined strikers Friday including members of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees and the Alberta Teachers Association.

Also on hand were faculty at the University of Northern British Columbia, University of Manitoba and Memorial University in Newfoundland.

O’Donnell said no progress has been made in negotiations with the university Board of Governors. Mount Royal University in Calgary settled Thursday, agreeing to a worse offer than one the ULFA made four weeks ago, he said.

“The really weird thing about this is Mount Royal settled, I believe yesterday, on an offer that from a management perspective is worse than what we offered them four weeks ago to avoid this strike.”

In 600 days, two articles of negotiation have been settled by the ULFA and the university out of 43, he said. Mount Royal and University of Alberta, in contrast, have settled 55 articles, he said.

Faculty has proposed a one per cent raise in terms of cost of living and a $2,600 annual increase across the board for everyone, O’Donnell said.

“That’s one per cent above what they were offering,” he added. “Their offer is still the same; they keep telling us they’re not moving from the one that failed in mediation. That was 2.75 per cent plus a half per cent tied to GDP and we’d asked for 3.75 per cent plus a half per cent.”

David Robinson, the executive director of CAUT, told the rally “the energy here is absolutely incredible, you’re like veterans out here,” adding he’d heard this was their first strike.

He said there were roughly 72,000 people at the rally because that number of members in CAUT were with them in spirit.

“I’m very proud of the fact that so many people are out here including students standing up for the issues that matter to us and protecting the integrity of academic work, protecting collegial governance, protecting academic freedom, protecting intellectual property rights. All these things are absolutely integral to the work you do. And not just to the work that you do but to the education that students get.

“Defending the academic job is absolutely essential to defending education and I’m quite disturbed by the fact that this administration seems to think that the views of faculty, the participation of faculty, the decisions of faculty in the governance structures of the institution don’t matter. You are the experts, you are the ones who should be deciding pedagogical standards, not the administration,” he said saying the CAUT will do whatever it takes to help the faculty.

Ted Binnema, a history professor at UNBC and the CAUT’s president of its defence fund who travels around the country co-ordinating pickets, also spoke.

“I think I’d be able to report to the University of Lethbridge administration and board of governors that the morale on the picket line is incredible and the support of people driving by is incredible. The 63 member associations of the Canadian Association of University Teachers defence fund, we all have our eyes on this place and we all support you and we are delighted by the support that the students have given particularly,” Binnema said.

“One of the keys to a short and effective strike is students and so we know we all want a short strike in which the fair collective agreement is accomplished soon,” Binnema said, thanking students.

“The fight that’s going on here is the fight that’s going on elsewhere, even as we speak in Nova Scotia and in Oshawa, Ontario.”

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