‘A lot up in the air’: Students’ petition calls for end to CapU strike

Click to play video: 'Capilano University students launch petition to end strike'
Capilano University students launch petition to end strike
WATCH: Students at Capilano University in North Vancouver have launched a petition to end a labour dispute. As Grace Key reports, the strike is putting graduation in jeopardy. At issue is a demand for work from home options for union members – Jun 19, 2023

A group of students at B.C.’s Capilano University are calling on the school and unionized workers to put aside a strike they say is hurting their education.

Katerina Derbas is among students behind an online petition urging striking support workers and faculty who have joined them in solidarity to end their job action. As of Monday the petition had collected just under 400 signatures.

“There’s been a disruption in all of our classes, and there’s just been a disruption in learning and everything,” Derbas said.

MoveUp local 378, which represents about 350 unionized inside workers at the university, started job action in May after talks with the university collapsed over the issue of having remote work added into their collective agreement. The Capilano Faculty Association joined the strike in solidarity on June 6, halting classes at the school’s campuses.

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Click to play video: 'Capilano University strike halts classes'
Capilano University strike halts classes

Derbas said that’s left students in limbo, unable to contact instructors for support and feedback on assignments. It’s also left their grades and assessments in question, a factor affecting some graduating students who need the marks to complete their move to graduate level programs.

“As students we are quite a major stakeholder at the university … we pay our tuition, the university provides us with the education. Obviously that’s being undermined here,” she said.

“Is there any way to maybe nudge the union or the university to see if they settle faster, or settle outside of doing a strike and at least let us finish our courses?”

MoveUp vice-president of combined units Christy Slusarenko said the union’s goal has always been to minimize its impact on students, and that workers want a speedy resolution to the dispute.

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“I want to apologize to them and let them know we really didn’t want to get to this point, but when the employer isn’t willing to negotiate we had to stick up for ourselves and our rights, and the faculty has joined us as well,” she told Global News.

“The faculty has joined us as well, the faculty really is wanting the strike to be over so they can get back to teaching, they’re able to get the grades out and the students are able to finish up their semester.”

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Slusarenko said union representatives had a short meeting with the employer on Thursday, but that the school’s latest offer, delivered Friday, hadn’t moved on their core issue.

In a statement, the university said it believed it had come to an accommodation with the union over the remote work issue on Thursday.

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“The University believed a tentative agreement had been reached and left the table with the intention to write up the agreement as discussed,” it said.

“MoveUP then indicated there were still three additional outstanding issues to resolve—issues that had previously been considered to be resolved by MoveUP’s own communications.”

The school said the two sides remain at loggerheads over a return to work protocol, with the union demanding the school cover backpay for striking workers during the job action.

In the interim, the school said students have been offered the option of a full refund or tuition credit, or to finish their courses with a range of options including the possible assignment of a grade or credit or opportunity for further assessment.

Click to play video: 'MoveUp strike action cancels classes at Capilano University'
MoveUp strike action cancels classes at Capilano University

Derbas said she’s unsatisfied with those options, and just wants to see classes back in session.

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“The fact of the matter is that our grades and our courses are in limbo and all of the effort we have put in up to the point of the strike is essentially being undermined because we don’t even know how those grades are going to translate into a final mark,” she said.

“There’s  just a lot of up in the air stuff right now.”

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