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UNBC faculty association suspends strike, files bad faith bargaining complaint against university

Faculty at the University of Northern British Columbia walked off the job on Thursday. .
Faculty at the University of Northern British Columbia walked off the job on Thursday. . Global News

Students at the University of Northern British Columbia will head back to classes Monday, as the school’s striking faculty association (UNBC-FA) pulls down pickets.

But the UNBC-FA says it is not ending job action.

In a statement posted Friday afternoon, the faculty association says it has filed a complaint of bad faith bargaining against the university’s administration with the provincial Labour Relations Board (LRB).

READ MORE: B.C. to appoint mediator as UNBC faculty strike nears three weeks

The move comes days after the province appointed a special mediator to try and bring an end to the now three-week-old strike that has threatened students’ semester.

“We are disappointed that we have to take this complaint to the board,” said UNBC-FA vice-president Paul Siakaluk in a statement.

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“We hoped that the presence of a special mediator and the legal counsel for both parties would lead to a quick resolution of this issue during [Thursday’s] negotiating session. Unfortunately, that did not happen.”

The UNBC-FA says the mediator decided to suspend bargaining while the LRB hears the complaint.

Tentative deal averts bus strike
Tentative deal averts bus strike

It said because the process may take some time, it was suspending picketing as of 4:30 p.m. Friday.

READ MORE: School’s out: UNBC Faculty Association walks off the job

“The purpose of a strike is to exert pressure at the bargaining table. While the bargaining table is not available to us, we will not exert needless hardship on our students and on the other unions supporting us,” the UNBC-FA said.

UNBC president Daniel Weeks said he was unaware of the details of the faculty association’s LRB complaints.

I don’t know the details yet of the of the claim,” he said. “ All I can say to you is I’m unaware of anything we’ve done that is improper.”

But he said the association was both within its rights and duty-bound to make such a complaint if it felt it was warranted.

He said the university would make its response to the board once it had more information.

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READ MORE: University of Northern B.C. faculty issue 72-hour strike notice

In the meantime, he said he was happy to see the pickets come down.

“I’m just really pleased that our family are coming back to work on behalf of our students,” said Weeks.

“I’m grateful on behalf of the entire university community. I know this has been a difficult time for everyone.”

Weeks said the school was working to sort out what the suspension means for the rest of the semester, with the university’s senate and provost to discuss the issue and provide more information on Monday.

He said the school was also working out the details on some form of credit or compensation for students for missed class time.

It is unclear when mediated bargaining will resume between the two sides.