June 14th, 2024

Mediation underway in university strike

By Lethbridge Herald on March 15, 2022.

Herald photo by Al Beeber A University of Lethbridge Faculty Association picketer carries a flag at the entrance to the U of L Tuesday under the watchful eye of a person in a Jeep who strikers say is part of private security.

Al Beeber – Lethbridge Herald

The University of Lethbridge and its striking faculty association will enter their second session of mediation today in hopes of reaching a contract settlement.

The two sides began the mediation process Tuesday with Edmonton lawyer David Jones.

Three mediation meetings are scheduled but only two were definitely being staged, said University of Lethbridge Faculty Association president Dan O’Donnell Tuesday.

O’Donnell expressed hope the mediation process will result in an agreement to end the strike/lockout which began on Feb. 11.

“This is a guided mediation as well. The mediator takes a much more forceful role trying to keep the parties on topic,” said O’Donnell.

“Often if there’s been a labour disruption like this, there can be some bad blood and the mediator’s job is to try and keep people focused on what’s necessary to settle,” said O’Donnell.

On Tuesday, the two sides were presenting statements of where the discussions are at in their opinion and where areas that can be compromised are, he said.

The discussions this week are the first contact that the ULFA has had with the board of governor’s negotiators since the day the strike and lockout started, O’Donnell said.

“You always have hope otherwise we wouldn’t be engaging in this process. This is a process that the board proposed to us after our unfair labour practice complaint,” he added.

But he added the process is non-binding so things could go wrong if the mediation produces something that ULFA members or the university negotiators don’t think they can ratify.

“We’re hopeful while recognizing that it can go wrong and it has gone wrong at other universities,” he added.

The ULFA policy has always been to use job action to place maximum pressure on the administration while trying to minimize disruption to students and damage to the university as a whole, he said.

That’s the reason ULFA was only stopping classes and why it started the strike before reading week, the theory being that would allow time for administration to see members were serious, O’Donnell added.

“Our idea behind that was classes could be caught up, especially if there’s only a week or two then you’ve got Reading Week available. But we didn’t strike against research and we didn’t strike against practicums for professional designations and things like that, a reason being that could do long-term harm to the university and students,” said O’Donnell.

“Unfortunately the lockout was precisely actually against those.”

On its bargaining website, the university said Tuesday “mediation is scheduled for multiple dates this week and we are hopeful it will lead to a resolution that invites students and faculty back to class soon.

“The university remains committed to settling an agreement that respects the value of our faculty, honours our responsibilities to students and protects the university’s fundamental need for financial stability and long-term sustainability.”

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