Strike possibility low

Despite talks of strikes at other Ontario universities, the Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association (WLUFA) is confident that Laurier will not be following suit. Individuals involved in the negotiations believe that there will not be a strike or even a strike vote taking place this year even though the contract for Contract Academic Staff (CAS) expired at the end of August.

“At the moment, there is absolutely no suggestion that we could be moving towards a strike action,” said Judy Bates, a geography and environmental studies professor who is the current president of WLUFA.

WLUFA serves as the certified bargaining agent for all faculty and professional librarians. Currently, the association is negotiating numerous issues related to CAS instructors and staff, a group of 520 part-timers at Laurier.

“Workload and compensation are the major issues that come up every time we negotiate,” Bates said. “There’s concern about access to benefits … that’s an issue that has come up every time we negotiate, whether it’s for full-timers or part-timers.”

Bates believes that the primary concerns of CAS members – workload and compensation – are often the same issues of concern to permanent and full-time employees. “The only difference, perhaps with CAS are for job security,” Bates remarked. “CAS members obviously would like provisions for job security.”

WLUFA has been meeting twice weekly since mid-September to discuss these issues and will continue in the same fashion into December. Kendra Young, administrative manager of faculty relations, has been present and believes that the negotiations are progressing smoothly, and like Bates, sees no indication of a strike in Laurier’s future.

“I have to agree… that there is nothing pointing in the direction of a strike at all.”

Several other Ontario universities have been experiencing strike talks and actions in recent months. At the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, support staff moved to strike in September after their concerns for access to benefits and contracts were not met by administration. When the school decided to commence orientation regardless of the strike, support staff took to the picket lines and blocked entrances at the Sudbury and Thunder Bay campuses.

The University of Western Ontario has recently reached a tentative agreement between administration and faculty in order to avoid a strike of their own. Bates expressed a pleasant surprise at this turn of events.

“There seemed to be huge difference between what administration was offering and what the faculty association was offering,” Bates explained. “Yet at the last minute they managed to reach a tentative agreement.”

Students may recall a strike at WLU in the winter 2008 term, when 365 part-timers and CAS walked off the job for nearly three weeks, resulting in cancelled classes and missed teaching time for many students. But both
Bates and Young believe that the current negotiations taking place are nothing out of the ordinary, and that any talks of a strike are merely rumours fueled by sensationalism.

“[Negotiations] are progressing slowly, but that’s normal,” said Bates. Young confirmed this. “I believe that they are progressing well,” she said. “We are moving along. I’m actually quite happy with the way things are at this point.”

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