MUN faculty members vote in favour of strike

Professors at Memorial University have voted in favour of striking. (Paul Daly/CBC - image credit)
Professors at Memorial University have voted in favour of striking. (Paul Daly/CBC - image credit)

Members of Memorial University's faculty association have resoundingly voted to strike.

The vote was held Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. NT, with about 800 members eligible to cast a ballot.

Ash Hossain, president of the faculty association, said Thursday morning that 93 per cent of members turned out to vote, and 90 per cent of those voted yes on striking.

The association is giving the university a deadline of 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 30 to come to an agreement. Otherwise, they will walk out.

"[The impact] will be all the classes taught by MUNFA members," Hossain said. "None of us will be teaching any courses. It will be a total strike."

Terry Roberts/CBC
Terry Roberts/CBC

The vote comes after months of negotiations stalled over two main points: salaries and the creation of what MUNFA calls a two-tiered system that divides its members.

The two sides are in agreement on two per cent increases in the final years of the four-year contract, but are stuck on what the raise should be in the first year. The association has been seeking a front-end salary increase of eight per cent backdated to September to combat inflation, but MUN says it's limited in what it can offer.

"Bear in mind we have not gotten a raise in six years," Hossain said.

In a press release, Hossain said, "We started bargaining in January 2022, and the administration has been unprepared at every turn to make a fair deal."

He ackowledged the impact will be felt by students but said the issues at play are important for providing quality education at the university. If the strike goes ahead, he said, professors will work with students when it's over to ensure a smooth transition back to classes.

Education up in the air 

Students are left wondering what will happen to their education after this decision.

First-year engineering student Sfe Ifdikher has work terms coming up and doesn't know how they will happen. He said he's "never experienced any strike like this before" and doesn't know what to expect.

First-year student Kaitlin Downer said it seems like no one knows what will happen after Jan. 30 but said she sides with the professors.

"I definitely am in support."

Downer said there is a divide between what tenured professors and contract professors are paid, and if they are compensated, they can provide a better education.

"If they can feel respected in their position, then we will feel respected the same way when we go into our education," she said. "So I feel like for the most part we're all in support of them doing what they need to do to get what they deserve."

Dylan Gibbons, a fourth-year business student, agrees.

"We cannot just completely roboticize these people and forget that these are people who have families," he said. "I think underpaying them is kind of doing a disservice to all the hard work and the years of service that it took for them to get to where they are today."

He said professors are now talking openly about the issue but he's concerned "their grievances will spill over into the quality of lessons." With Gibbon on track to graduate this year, he said he's frustrated because he doesn't know what will happen, and said there needs to be a balance between student needs and adequate compensation.

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