Concordia University of Edmonton faculty association to strike in new year

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Faculty at Concordia University of Edmonton are set to strike on January 4 if an agreement with the school's bargaining committee is not reached over the holidays. (John Shypitka/CBC - image credit)
Faculty at Concordia University of Edmonton are set to strike on January 4 if an agreement with the school's bargaining committee is not reached over the holidays. (John Shypitka/CBC - image credit)

Faculty at Concordia University of Edmonton will be on strike in the first week of January unless their union reaches a deal with the school's bargaining team over the next two weeks.

The Concordia University of Edmonton Faculty Association (CUEFA) submitted a formal strike notice to the university's administration on Wednesday morning.

The strike, which would be a first for faculty associations in Alberta and affect more than 2,500 students, would start on January 4 at 9 a.m.

After months of negotiation, according to the websites for both parties, the school and faculty association have signed off on more than half of 41 articles of a new collective agreement.

CUEFA interim president Glynis Price told CBC News on Thursday that both sides have now agreed on faculty workload — should the new agreement be ratified, faculty will be expected to teach fewer courses to make up for an increase in research.

But the association is still concerned about discipline and job security, workload for non-faculty staff members, and salaries, among other issues.

"We are seeking fair compensation for our members that is comparable to other universities," Price said.

John Shypitka/CBC
John Shypitka/CBC

According to the university's most recent annual report, the school recorded a net surplus of $11.5 million in March and a $7.8 million surplus the previous year.

Price said Concordia administration had received approval to take lockout action against the faculty association but it would need to give 72 hours notice.

Strike and lockout actions must go through the Alberta Labour Relations Board.

An emailed statement from the school's bargaining team said it remains hopeful a fair agreement can be reached and it "will maintain a constructive approach at the bargaining table in the hope of avoiding a strike."

Student support group formed

Ashley Callahan, a third-year student studying history at Concordia, started a student group that supports the faculty association.

As of Thursday afternoon, 70 people had signed her petition expressing support for faculty.

Callahan said she understands and shares fellow students' concerns about the effects of a strike but she also feels an obligation to support her teachers.

"Our faculty has done everything possible to get us through the last two years of this pandemic and the least that we can do is stand by them to negotiate a fair wage deal," she said.

Callahan said she and her peers took note of students' recent advocacy at the University of Manitoba, where some students protested in support of a striking faculty association. That five-week-long strike ended earlier this month and semesters were extended to make up for lost class time.

Callahan said students in her group plan to participate in more solidarity movements if talks between Concordia and the faculty association deteriorate.

Price said bargaining will continue over the holidays.

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