All Posts Tagged With: "strike"
Students pay the price for high compensation
As Canadian universities continue to pay the most generous compensation to their professors in the world, something is going to have to give. Mix this with pensions that are sometimes worth more than the paycheque of professors in the U.S. and U.K. and it’s a recipe for budgetary disaster.
St. Francis Xavier University is the most recent university staff to go on strike, cancelling classes for more than 4,000 students. Pay and the contracting of term professors are some of the justifications offered by the Association of Nova Scotia University Teachers (ANSUT).
According to Statistics Canada’s 2011 report, assistant professors at St. FX made a median of $74,377 in 2010-11 while full professors earned a median of $123,673. The average assistant professor’s salary nationwide was $91,035 and the average full professor’s salary was $143,366. That’s far higher than most Canadians will ever earn.
As the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance reported in a 2011 study, new funds for teaching staff there are mostly going to current professors, so it’s not as if students are benefiting.
Classes cancelled as professors picket over pay
“We want to reclaim this university,” says St. Francis Xavier Association of University Teachers president Peter McInnis. That’s the message that faculty members carried as they took to the picket lines Monday commencing an unprecedented strike at the campus in Antigonish, N.S.
After eight months of talks, the administration and union failed to reach an agreement on pay and other issues. In the last round of bargaining faculty proposed a 9.3 per cent wage increase over three years, according to the AUT. The administration offered 6.2 per cent over four years.
According to Statistics Canada’s 2011 report, assistant professors at St. FX made a median of $74,377 in 2010-11 while full professors earned a median of $123,673. The average assistant professor’s salary nationwide was $91,035 and the average full professor’s salary was $143,366.
Professors, lab instructors, librarians and writing center workers all hit the pavement at 7:30 a.m. Monday forcing the postponement of classes for the foreseeable future and causing uncertainty for the school’s more than 4,000 students.
Student doesn’t want his money funding political causes
A University of Ottawa student is suing his students’ union over the mandatory $92.60 fee it collects from all undergraduates. Edward Inch, 22, is taking the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa to small claims court to ask for his winter semester fees returned plus $210 in legal costs. His reasons are the political activities SFUO takes part in, like supporting Quebec protesters and striking postal workers. “They claim to represent all students, yet they take political positions I don’t agree with,” the 22-year-old chemistry major told the Ottawa Citizen. “If I wanted to save the whales and save the postal workers, I’d do that in my spare time,” he added. SFUO rejects his claims.
A worried judge, a counteroffer and an eager opposition
Retired Superior Court judge John Gomery, famous for heading the commission into the federal sponsorship scandal, has told the Montreal Gazette that he’s concerned about the fact that court orders allowing students back to class are frequently being ignored in Quebec.
Approximately one-third of Quebec students are protesting a $1,625 tuition hike by boycotting classes. Many of them continue to block students who have a legal right to return to school.
This week, classes were cancelled at CEGEP de St. Laurent, Collège de Maisonneuve, CEGEP de St. Jean sur Richelieu, CEGEP de Sherbrooke and CEGEP de l’Outaouais, despite injunctions.
If profs walk on Saturday, it may be worse than usual
It seems there is always some faculty association somewhere in Canada that is either on strike or heading towards one. Just last year, Brandon faculty came through a long and painful strike. Nearly every university has been there at one point or another.
So the news that there may be a faculty strike at Nova Scotia’s largest university on or after Saturday is not particularly surprising.
But some strikes are worse than others, and, while no one can predict the outcome with any certainty, if there is a strike at Dalhousie, it might be worse than most. Here’s why.
This is not the first time. Dalhousie faculty have been on strike four times since 1988—that’s a lot, even by university standards. Strikes are divisive and faculty members’ memories are long. That means there is likely not a reserve of good will between faculty and administration and when things come to a head, cooler heads may not prevail.
Runaway compensation is hurting students
When students across the country united for the Canadian Federation of Students’ National Day of Action to protest tuition fees on Feb. 1, tiny Brandon University’s student union did their part.
They gathered students, foisted placards and yelled into a megaphone. The message was clear.
Drop fees. Drop fees. Drop fees.
It seems strange then, that last fall when the Brandon University Faculty Association went on strike for the second time in three years, the student union wasn’t so bothered about being asked to pay more for their professors— who make up most of the university’s costs.
But the bitter strike is not quite over yet
McGill University and representatives of striking support workers have accepted a tentative agreement put forward by a provincially-appointed conciliator, both sides announced on Wednesday.
While both sides have said they won’t be revealing the details of the tentative agreement until it is presented to union members, MUNACA president Kevin Whittaker told the Montreal Gazette that: “The agreement does contain a number of the main objectives we wanted,” including a pay increase that is “well over” the university’s original offer.
Damage up to $150,000
Police in Brandon, Man. are treating Monday’s fire at the building that houses the Brandon University Students’ Union (BUSU) as suspicious. The damage to the Knowles Douglas building is believed to be between $100,000 and $150,000. No one was injured in the blaze. A 45-day professors’ strike at Brandon ended on Friday. Students returned to class on the same day as the fire. The BUSU sided with the professors’ demands for pay raises and, unlike the university, will not refund fees to students who drop their classes as a result of the nearly seven-week strike.
Minister takes “extraordinary” step
Manitoba’s labour minister has ordered striking professors to vote on the latest contract offer from Brandon University’s administrators. A strike at the small prairie school has killed classes for six weeks now. If a majority vote “yes,” professors will go back to work almost immediately.
“I have reviewed the circumstances of the dispute and the negative effect of the work stoppage on the students of Brandon University and the city of Brandon,” Labour Minister Jennifer Howard wrote in a letter to university president Deborah Poff and BUFA president Joe Dolecki yesterday. “I am of the opinion that a vote of the employees in (BUFA) to accept or reject the last offer of the employer, respecting all matters remaining in dispute between the parties, is in the public interest.”
The vote is expected later this week. The parties were close to a deal last week. The university offered raises of nine per cent raise over four years, plus an $1,800 back-to-work bonus. BUFA wants 10 per cent over four years, plus $3,000 for each member who goes back to work.
The reason Brandon professors have gone on strike for the second time in three years is that they feel they’re underpaid. Associate professors average $89,000, which is less than the $106,000 nationwide. Still, salaries are very similar to those paid at similar small schools like Nipissing University in North Bay, Ont.
Nothing to gain
University students in Quebec continued their fight against annual $325 tuition increases on Nov. 10, protesting in large numbers by skipping classes. Classes were even cancelled at Dawson College and students marched in the streets of Montreal.
It was well organized and peaceful. To get a sense of that, consider that marshals in fluorescent vests helped defuse the tense moments between protesters and police outside Charest’s Montreal office where things might have become violent. Although the sight of riot police on campus is always disturbing, there was only a small cadre of roughly 100 students outside the McGill Administration building when police moved in.
But as big and peaceful as the demonstration was, will it change anything?
Although the 2005 student strike ended with the government giving in to some student demands, Thursday’s much shorter “strike” takes place in a much less friendly political climate and a much more uncertain economy. Even as students were marching in Montreal, education minister Line Beauchamp stood up in the National Assembly to reiterate that students must pay “their fair share.”
It’s easy for her to have such bravado. Premier Jean Charest faces no threats on the left who might gain from angry student voters. The Parti Québécois, the only other party to have formed government in this province since the 1970s, is tearing itself apart.
At the moment, Charest’s biggest political threat comes from the right. François Legault, a former PQ cabinet minister, and his centre-right Coalition pour l’avenir du Québec (CAQ) are leading in recent polls. The Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ), a right-wing party with four seats in the National Assembly, is entering into formal negotiations with the CAQ concerning a potential merger.
Legault is on the record saying that students in programs which lead to higher paying jobs should pay more tuition. Considering that kind of thinking, it’s safe to bet that students wouldn’t find a CAQ government any more supportive of their demands.
In my opinion, they’re paid well enough already.
More than 1,000 students at Brandon University have signed a petition asking for their tuition money back because of a faculty strike that caused classes to be cancelled since Oct. 12.
But the Brandon University Student’s Union (BUSU), which has collected the signatures, doesn’t blame the professors—who are striking for the second time in three years—for their three weeks of missed classes. BUSU supports the picketing profs. They agree they’re underpaid.
But are Brandon’s professors really underpaid? More importantly—are professors underpaid in general? It’s a question students and taxpayers should ask—they’re the ones who pay the bills.
Student was accused of misconduct related to protest
Two McGill University student leaders have been cleared of misconduct accusations related to their support of the ongoing strike at the school, says one of the two accused. Joel Pedneault, a vice-president for the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) told the Montreal Gazette that the accusations were dropped on Friday after he met with associate dean of arts André Costopoulos.
Pedneault says he wants a public apology from administrators for what he calls “harassment.”
Pedneault and colleague Micha Stettin received letters Oct. 14 suggesting they violated the Code of Student Conduct related to a demonstration held on Oct. 11 where students calling themselves the “mob squad” sat in an entrance to the university to show their support for McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) employees. Pedneault didn’t even attend the protest.
The relationship between McGill administrators, MUNACA employees and some students has been strained by the strike, with allegations of thrown objects, the arrest of a 63-year-old employee, picketing that shut down a construction site and more. To read about the acrimony, click here.
Threats, injunctions and allegations fly. What’s next?
Two members of McGill University’s student government face a disciplinary hearing related to a rally in favour of striking support staff. One of them says he wasn’t even there.
Meanwhile, McGill principal Heather Munroe-Blum has issued a statement accusing strikers of throwing objects at senior administrators and threatening elderly alumni at homecoming.
And those are just two of the recent confrontations between strike supporters and McGill officials.
The two students facing discipline are Micha Stettin and Joël Pedneault, who are both elected to the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU). They allegedly took part in an Oct. 11 demonstration at which 30 protesters calling themselves the “Mob Squad” (short for mobilization) sat in an intersection at an entrance to the Montreal university’s pedestrian-only campus.
OpenFile reports that the pair is accussed of contravening two sections of the university’s code of conduct, which state: “No student shall, by action, threat, or otherwise, knowingly obstruct University activities,” and, “No student shall, contrary to express instructions or with intent to damage, destroy or steal University property or without just cause knowingly enter or remain in any University building, facility, room, or office.”
Both dispute the charges. Pedneault, vice-president external of SSMU, told McGill Daily that he was not at the protest. McGill admin. told CBC Radio that they will not comment on the details.
The McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) has been on strike since Sept. 1. They want, among other things, a “proper pay scale.” McGill said on Oct. 20 that strikers are asking for too much money: a 28.9 per cent pay increase over three years, they say.
The Mob Squad discipline is only one recent controversy. After the university won an injunction earlier this month limiting picketing near campus, members of MUNACA began picketing outside the homes of senior administrators and the workplaces of board members. Strikers also picketed at events during McGill’s homecoming weekend. At one event, 63-year-old Joan O’Malley was arrested for refusing to leave an alumni dinner at a hotel. She was ticketed and released.
Munroe-Blum released a statement saying striker tactics had “moved from reasonable, civil free speech into threats and vandalism.” On Oct. 21, the university won another injunction limiting the size and noise created by pickets near private homes, workplaces and off-campus events.
The previous day strikers had picketed the construction site of a McGill-affiliated hospital. Construction workers refused to cross the picket line, shutting down work for the day. An injunction was issued ordering strikers to remain more than three metres from site entrances and exits.
The university has been especially critical of the hospital construction site picket. Michael Di Grappa, the university’s vice-principal for administration and finance, told the Montreal Gazette that the move was “a contemptible strategy that will bear no fruit.”
MUNACA president Kevin Whittaker fired back, saying the university is more focused “on getting injunctions from the courts to limit our freedom of expression than… on finding a fair resolution.”
Despite the public rancour, the two sides continue to meet frequently with a conciliator.
So what’s next? Possibly more labour strife. The General Assembly of the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill, which represents teaching assistants, voted on Oct. 19 to initiate pressure tactics after five months of negotiations failed to result in a new work contract.
Students can’t be punished for not crossing picket lines
There has been a lot of misinformation about the current strike by Brandon University’s Faculty Association (BUFA). Here’s what we do know.
Reports earlier this week suggested that students will be punished if they choose to skip the classes of any professor who chooses to go back to work before the strike ends. President Deborah Poff wrote Tuesday that no student was ever at risk of being punished. “Students have a right not to cross a picket line,” she wrote. “It is an act of political and moral conscience, and Brandon University will not discriminate against students for their political beliefs.”
It was also reported that talks had broken off on Wednesday, as the conciliator had returned to Winnipeg. But BUFA writes today that although the two sides will not meet again until Monday, that’s because the conciliator is unavailable until then, not because talks had broken off. BUFA also confirmed that they have rejected the schools’ offers for arbitration or mediation and arbitration.
Last strike was in 2008
Brandon University’s 240 professors, librarians and administrative staff have voted 71 per cent in favour of a strike. That does not mean a strike is certain. “The clear message of this strong, positive mandate is that BUFA members are determined to achieve a fair and equitable settlement in this round of negotiations,” Brandon University Faculty Association president Joe Dolecki said in a release. The school experienced a 17-day strike in the fall of 2008, according to CBC News.
Injunction forces smaller, quieter picket lines
The union representing striking support staff workers at McGill University has filed a report with the Quebec Labour Board alleging that the university is using illegal replacement workers, reports Canadian Labour Reporter.
The report followed an investigation by the Quebec Ministry of Labour that found 15 of the 110 workers filling in for striking staff were not managers or otherwise eligible replacements.
Michael Di Grappa, vice-principal of administration and finance for the university, disputes the accusation. “All the contingency actions taken to keep the university operating in its core mission of teaching and research during the MUNACA strike are fully within the law,” he said.
Meanwhile, the university has obtained an injunction to force McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) workers to reduce the size and volume of picket lines in order to allow more access to the school, at least until a hearing on Oct. 3.
Di Grappa told the Montreal Gazette that the school asked for the injunction because of concerns that students were forced off sidewalks by picketers and that the delivery of perishable research items had been impeded.
MUNACA went on strike since Sept. 1. and is seeking what they call “a proper wage scale.”
Prof. moved class to living room to avoid picket lines
A McGill University professor who moved her Islamic studies class to her living room to avoid crossing the picket lines of striking workers has been told to get back to campus or lose her pay.
Prof. Michelle Hartman said she was told by Christopher Manfredi, the Arts Dean, that she can’t do her job properly off campus. “I told him I’m moving it back under protest,” she told the Montreal Gazette. She wanted to avoid campus as a symbol of solidarity with the strikers.
Provost Anthony Masi wrote to all professors on Tuesday to clarify the school’s position: “A professor’s right not to cross a picket line does not confer any right to move classes away from campus,” he wrote. Students had complained of inconvenient off-campus classes, he said.
McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) employees have been striking since Sept. 1. MUNACA has asked McGill for a 3 per cent wage increase each year for three years, plus a wage scale where employees reach maximum pay in six years. Negotiations continue.
Classes cancelled for 15,000 students
Instructors and staff at all campuses of the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology went on strike Tuesday, putting classes for 15,000 students on hold. But the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union will meet with a mediator this morning, reports CTV Saskatchewan. Before the strike, the union rejected an offer from the school that included a 5.5 per cent wage increase over three years.
Long lines and traffic jams from Toronto to Timmins
There are three-hour waits in line to register for courses at George Brown College in Toronto, reports the Toronto Star.
In Belleville, picketers at Loyalist College created a monster traffic jam that caused students and teachers to be late for class, reports the Intelligencer. The traffic jam also hindered regular citizens. One mother told the paper that the traffic jam made her four-year-old daughter more than an hour late for her first day of kindergarten.
A Seneca College, a student told the Toronto Star that his orientation was cancelled.
The disruptions are all due to picket lines created by 8,000 Ontario college support staff who went on strike at 24 schools on Sept. 1. The The Ontario Public Service Employees Union members work in bookstores, registration, financial aid offices, IT, janitorial, maintenance and more.
Warren “Smokey” Thomas, OPSEU President, told Maclean’s On Campus on Thursday that workers are striking to protect full-time jobs, because the colleges want to add more part-time employees. “I tell parents and students that we’re fighting for their futures,” he said.
The union has also asked for wage increases. Under the expiring collective agreement, employees who have worked full-time for more than one year are paid between $18.27 and $44.91 per hour. The College Employer Council’s last offer on August 31st included a 4.75 per cent wage increase, paid over three years, which would have put the average salary at just over $59,000.
Although students have faced delays and headaches at some schools, students at Fanshawe College in London told the London Free Press that there were no serious delays getting to campus on Tuesday. At Georgian College in Barrie, Algonquin College in Ottawa and St. Lawrence College in Brockville, local media also reported only minor delays on the first day of class.
What remains unclear is whether government loans will reach students later than usual. Chris Whitaker, president of St. Lawrence College, told The Canadian Press that managers at his school are working to get students’ Ontario Student Assistance Program loans distributed on time. But at Fleming College in Peterborough, all student loan appointments were cancelled this week.
Classes will go ahead as planned: university
McGill University’s 1,700 non-academic employees went on strike at 6 a.m. this morning. The employees provide course registration, laboratory support, clerical support, record keeping, student residence management, IT support and more.
University classes will go ahead next week. ”You have the right, as a student or an employee, to cross the picket line to get to class or to your work,” the university wrote in a statement. “McGill will ensure that you can enter the campus safely.”
The collective agreement expired in Dec. 2010. MUNACA wants a three per cent wage increase. McGill has offered 1.2 per cent.*
The workers say they also want more secure benefits. ”Unlike other university workers in Quebec, there are no protections for our pensions and benefits at McGill,” wrote McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) president Kevin Whittaker. “The time has come for the university to recognize our hard work and our contribution to the quality of life students enjoy.”
*This post has been updated to remove salary data that was incorrect. Maclean’s On Campus regrets the error.