On Thursday, the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association will mark two weeks on strike, following failed negotiations with administration and more than 600 days without a contract.
Many other universities have also been involved in labour negotiations in recent months, including Concordia University of Edmonton, which saw its own faculty association go on strike for 11 days.
“We were lucky enough that the administrative bargaining team said, ‘Yeah, let’s get this done,'” said Glynis Price, the president of that faculty association.
“Then we had some very long days, we had a lot of bargaining through sort of the second week of our strike, and we were able to hammer out a deal.”
While the post-secondary schools differ in their size and processes, the asks from faculty were similar, including on issues like salary and workload.
“We’re seeing this mirrored, university after university after university,” Price said.
Some institutions, however, did not see any strike action. Last week, the Mount Royal Faculty Association (MRFA) in Calgary voted to ratify a new collective agreement.
Lee Easton, president of the MRFA, said the association is glad student learning was not interrupted.
“I think we were fortunate through the mediation process to avert that decision,” Easton said.
“We’re now moving to implement many of those changes.”
Easton added each bargaining process and team is different, and the faculty association didn’t settle everything “perfectly,” but feels for those who find themselves on the picket line in the cold.
“It’s unfortunate, because I think when they look at us and they see that we’ve been able to find a way through, I guess they wonder why their board are not making the necessary changes in their stance.”
On Wednesday, the ULFA once again called on administration to return to the table.
ULFA president Dan O’Donnell said his association understands not everyone can get exactly what they want or is willing to budge, but added they can only do so if the other side agrees to sit down and negotiate.
“Our side have been sitting here for ages offering different ways of doing it, and at some point somebody has to say ‘yes’ when they’re being offered it,” he expressed.
The University of Lethbridge told Global News that some of the ULFA’s demands are “out of step” with other institutions and don’t consider the economic realities of universities and Albertans in general.
“Current salary demands would force the University of Lethbridge into an untenable financial position that would unfairly impact students and other employees,” the university said in an email. “Demands for a trade union to have decision-making authority represent an unprecedented and unacceptable breach of post-secondary governance practices.
“We are hopeful ULFA will adopt more reasonable positions that will permit negotiations to move forward.”
“I have no idea what they’re talking about,” O’Donnell said when asked about the school’s Feb. 22 update calling the ULFA’s strategies “co-management schemes”.
“I’m not quite sure (why) they think the requests we’re lifting are so unusual.”
For safety reasons, faculty have not been picketing for the last couple of days due to cold weather.