Lethbridge business sector concerned about U of L labour issues: ‘It’s troubling’

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WATCH ABOVE: As the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association strike hits its fifth week, the local business community says it is feeling the pinch. As Erik Bay tells us, the impasse between the school and its faculty is leaving some businesses without their customers. – Mar 17, 2022

The labour dispute between the University of Lethbridge and its faculty association continues and the Lethbridge business community says it’s being impacted.

The province lifting most COVID-19 restrictions on March 1 was a boost for Backstreet Pub & Pizza. But despite the return to some form of normalcy, a large part of owner Lauren Kielly’s client base — university students — has not come back with the changes.

Read more: U of L nursing students kept from practicum placements during strike: ‘It’s pretty sad’

“We even wanted to put on student events and things like that, but that’s been postponed,” Kielly said.

“A lot of students left Lethbridge just because they’re waiting around, so we can really feel it.”

According to the U of L, the total direct annual cash flow into the Lethbridge region from the school totals $338 million.

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A portion of that figure is made up by student spending.

Read more: U of L students host sit-in protest as faculty association strike continues

Economic Development Lethbridge CEO Trevor Lewington says that cash goes into many different industries.

“The vast majority of those students, about 75 per cent, come from outside the region. So those 8,000 students are bringing money for accommodations, food and those kind of things,” Lewington said.

“The university is a huge impact on so many levels.”

While fewer students are grabbing tables at Backstreet, Kielly is also losing another important part of her business; employees.

“Students are the best. They’re eager to work and they’re a nice energy,” she said. “We have a couple of staff on, but some have left.”

The hope is both sides of the labour dispute can come to an agreement soon, before any long-term impact occurs.

Read more: U of L Faculty Association begins strike

“For those students that see Lethbridge as a destination, if they’re not guaranteed they’ll have the ability to access classes or they’re worried about professors leaving or the environment that’s created once this labour dispute is settled, that could cause people to stay away,” Lewington said.

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“It’s troubling for sure, and if it continues, it’s not good,” Kielly said.

The school and its faculty entered mediation on Tuesday.

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