Eight members of Terrace UNBC faculty gathered outside the campus Nov. 7 to protest stalled negotiations for fairer working conditions with university administration. (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Eight members of Terrace UNBC faculty gathered outside the campus Nov. 7 to protest stalled negotiations for fairer working conditions with university administration. (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Faculty at Terrace UNBC campus join strike after failed negotiations

Unfair working conditions required job action demonstration, protesters say

University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) Terrace campus faculty members walked off the job this morning to protest for fairer working conditions and higher wages after talks to negotiate a deal fell through with administrators.

Eight members of Terrace faculty gathered outside the campus in the cold, pouring rain at 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 7, carrying signs reading ‘Good educators are priceless, not free’ and ‘On strike.’

The protest today comes after the union representing faculty at UNBC issued a 72-hour strike notice Monday. Demonstrations also taking place at UNBC’s main Prince George campus. Classes are cancelled at the Terrace campus today as protests continue.

A university spokesperson told Black Press Media the employer tabled an offer that included an average salary increase of about 15 per cent over three years for tenure-track and tenured faculty members, and remains committed to reaching an agreement at the table.

READ MORE: No deal reached: Faculty union at UNBC expected to man picket lines Thursday morning

Striker Marian Kotowich-Laval has worked with UNBC for more than a decade. She says job action was necessary to not only secure better wages and working conditions for existing faculty, but future generations of educators as well.

“We’ve really done a lot of research and study for where we should be at, not only with wages, but promotions and tenure,” says Kotowich-Laval, who is a senior laboratory instructor at the Terrace campus.

The conflict is not just directed at UNBC, she says, but issues on a wider scope about how society values its educators.

“A lot of people put in extra personal time and finances, and that has to be recognized for us to ask our administrators, but also the government and Canadian people to say, where are we putting our priorities here?” Kotowich-Laval says.

“Education is not a privileged activity, it’s one that’s very vital, especially in the northern region. We train teachers who then live here, we train nurses, we train social workers, artists, scientists.”

READ MORE: Faculty union at UNBC issues 72-hour strike notice

Fellow striker and Bachelor of Education coordinator Ed Harrison agrees, noting wages paid for UNBC faculty are lower than wages paid at other universities.

“It’s a working climate, right? You’d like to be treated with some respect and fairness, and when you fall further and further behind, it suggests that you’re not being treated fairly or with respect,” he says. ‘The negotiating committee has been working hard for the last eight months and have made no progress, and we would hope a settlement is imminent.”

Strikers in Terrace say they plan to continue protesting until university administrators negotiate a deal.

Barb Daigle, chief negotiating officer for the UNBC administration, says they are waiting for the faculty union to reach out to them to renegotiate an offer. Talks around an agreement went until past 2 a.m. the morning of the strike, when the union eventually declined their latest offer, she says.

“We have been working tirelessly for the past three years to find a way to address the compensation issues. Our faculty salaries have fallen behind our competitor’s because of the structure of it and how it’s designed,” Daigle says.

At the bargaining table, she says administrators presented an offer that would raise tenure faculty to 90 per cent of the way to the competitive wage target, calling the offer a “clear and undeniable commitment to build a structure that will service long-serving faculty members and provide much improved career progression for early career members.”

Daigle says administrators felt frustrated when negotations closed off with no deal in sight.

“The university is a publically funded institution, there’s no more money we can give them. It’s everything we could possibly put on the table.”

However, UNBC union chief negotiator Ted Binnema says they presented a proposal they hoped would “break through on salaries.”

“Unfortunately, at 2:45 a.m. the employer stated that they would consider that proposal only if we agreeed to delay the start of the strike,” Binnema wrote in a posting to the UNBC faculty association website.

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

Binnema also wrote the union is “eager” to settle a collective agreement that “provides as much assurance as possible that students, faculty and staff three years from now will not face the kind of uncertainty – or job action – that they do now.”

While Kotowich-Laval says she understands student frustrations about class cancellations, she encourages students to educate themselves on the issues at hand to gain a better understanding of the bigger picture.

“[The decision to strike] was not taken lightly,” she says. “There are some very serious issues, not just today, but things that will stretch out in terms of keeping the university in a secure place. We just hope that reason prevails and we get recognized, because we’re a hard working group of people who go above and beyond.”

UNBC has more than 3,500 students and about 180 tenure and tenure-track faculty who could be affected by the strike.


 


brittany@terracestandard.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Protesters are walking outside the Terrace UNBC campus despite the cold, rainy weather conditions. (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Protesters are walking outside the Terrace UNBC campus despite the cold, rainy weather conditions. (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Protesters gathered outside the Terrace UNBC campus at 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 7, carrying signs reading ‘Good educators are priceless, not free’ and ‘On strike.’ (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Protesters gathered outside the Terrace UNBC campus at 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 7, carrying signs reading ‘Good educators are priceless, not free’ and ‘On strike.’ (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Protesters gathered outside the Terrace UNBC campus at 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 7, carrying signs reading ‘Good educators are priceless, not free’ and ‘On strike.’ (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Protesters gathered outside the Terrace UNBC campus at 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 7, carrying signs reading ‘Good educators are priceless, not free’ and ‘On strike.’ (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Just Posted

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, prepares a dose of the Moderna vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Almost two in three Canadians surveyed recently said they trust COVID-19 vaccines to be both safe and effective. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Northern Health to open 30 COVID vaccine clinics for oldest residents, Indigenous seniors

Health authority says it plans to vaccinate nearly 15,000 people in Phase Two

(899 Vanderhoof Air Cadets/Facebook)
Vanderhoof Air Cadets to hold fundraising raffle this summer

Winners will be announced in May this year

Artemis Gold is taking a different approach with the Blackwater Project. The company will be working in three phases. The average gold production at Blackwater will be 248,000 ounces in Phase 1, 420,000 ounces in Phase 2 and 316,000 ounces in Phase 3. (Submitted image)
Artemis Gold provides update on Blackwater Gold Project

Ore grade control drilling, metallurgical test work and more being conducted

NDIT logo.
NDIT grants over $160K to Vanderhoof for street lighting project on Burrard

Total cost of the project is approximately $380,000

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

This image provided by Harpo Productions shows Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, left, in conversation with Oprah Winfrey. (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP)
Race, title and anguish: Meghan and Harry explain royal rift

Meghan said she struggled with concerns within the royal family about her son’s skin colour

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is administered to a personal support worker at the Ottawa Hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 in Ottawa. Doctors in Alberta have signed an open letter asking for prioritized vaccination of health-care staff who work directly with patients on dedicated COVID-19 units. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID vaccines for seniors in B.C.: Here’s how to sign up

Seniors 90+, Indigenous seniors 65+ and Indigenous Elders can book starting March 8

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Most Read