A couple dozen students could been seen occupying a University of Lethbridge hallway on Monday and Tuesday in demonstration. They were protesting the continued impasse in labour negotiations at the post-secondary institution.
They brought posters and signs in support of faculty, setting up camp outside administration offices in University Hall.
“We have our own voice and we’re going to use it,” said Amy Mendenhall. “We’re using it right now.”
Mendenhall is a fourth-year Indigenous Studies student who feels frustrated with the pace of negotiations. The strike began on Feb. 10, and students were supposed to resume in-person learning on Monday.
“We have tried everything up to this point to get attention,” Mendenhall explained. “We went to an open (board of governors) meeting where they put down our hands, we have (written) letters, we have tweeted at them. We have done everything we can.”
According to students, they were approached by security on Monday for being too loud after they had been playing music and chanting.
Mendenhall said they then “toned it down”.
“If they feel disrupted, well, welcome to the club.”
The U of L issued a statement saying students have a legitimate right to protest, asking staff not to interrupt their demonstrations.
“As these activities unfold our community has a shared responsibility to respect these rights of students, in an atmosphere of mutual respect,” the statement read.
On Tuesday, a resolution was no closer at hand. Both the administration and the ULFA engaged in finger-pointing, with administration saying the biggest contention is around money, while the faculty association claims the most contentious issues that remain are equity, transparency, and shared decision-making.
Both sides are accusing the other of refusing to return to the negotiating table.
The stalemate lead the ULFA to file an unfair labor practice complaint against the board of governors on Monday.
“It may be that this is the only way we’ll be able to reach agreement,” ULFA bargaining team member Joy Morris said. “It’s worked everywhere else. After two years of spinning our wheels, it’s time we get this settled and start catching up on the semester.”
“It proposes solutions to how we think we can get out of this impasse,” ULFA president Dan O’Donnell added. “These are solutions that we know work because they’ve worked at every other university in the country. That’s why we are the only university that has still got its students not in class.”
However, the University of Lethbridge telling Global News the “recent complaint before the Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) is without merit and is unlikely to facilitate a productive return to bargaining.
“We continue to seek a negotiated settlement at the collective bargaining table.”
The U of L added it has been impacted by provincial funding cuts and looks forward to productive discussions with the union that reflect the impacts of the fundamental need for financial stability.