Eight members of Terrace UNBC faculty gathered outside the campus Nov. 7 to protest stalled negotiations for fairer working conditions with university administration. (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Eight members of Terrace UNBC faculty gathered outside the campus Nov. 7 to protest stalled negotiations for fairer working conditions with university administration. (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Faculty at Terrace UNBC campus join strike after failed negotiations

Unfair working conditions required job action demonstration, protesters say

University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) Terrace campus faculty members walked off the job this morning to protest for fairer working conditions and higher wages after talks to negotiate a deal fell through with administrators.

Eight members of Terrace faculty gathered outside the campus in the cold, pouring rain at 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 7, carrying signs reading ‘Good educators are priceless, not free’ and ‘On strike.’

The protest today comes after the union representing faculty at UNBC issued a 72-hour strike notice Monday. Demonstrations also taking place at UNBC’s main Prince George campus. Classes are cancelled at the Terrace campus today as protests continue.

A university spokesperson told Black Press Media the employer tabled an offer that included an average salary increase of about 15 per cent over three years for tenure-track and tenured faculty members, and remains committed to reaching an agreement at the table.

READ MORE: No deal reached: Faculty union at UNBC expected to man picket lines Thursday morning

Striker Marian Kotowich-Laval has worked with UNBC for more than a decade. She says job action was necessary to not only secure better wages and working conditions for existing faculty, but future generations of educators as well.

“We’ve really done a lot of research and study for where we should be at, not only with wages, but promotions and tenure,” says Kotowich-Laval, who is a senior laboratory instructor at the Terrace campus.

The conflict is not just directed at UNBC, she says, but issues on a wider scope about how society values its educators.

“A lot of people put in extra personal time and finances, and that has to be recognized for us to ask our administrators, but also the government and Canadian people to say, where are we putting our priorities here?” Kotowich-Laval says.

“Education is not a privileged activity, it’s one that’s very vital, especially in the northern region. We train teachers who then live here, we train nurses, we train social workers, artists, scientists.”

READ MORE: Faculty union at UNBC issues 72-hour strike notice

Fellow striker and Bachelor of Education coordinator Ed Harrison agrees, noting wages paid for UNBC faculty are lower than wages paid at other universities.

“It’s a working climate, right? You’d like to be treated with some respect and fairness, and when you fall further and further behind, it suggests that you’re not being treated fairly or with respect,” he says. ‘The negotiating committee has been working hard for the last eight months and have made no progress, and we would hope a settlement is imminent.”

Strikers in Terrace say they plan to continue protesting until university administrators negotiate a deal.

Barb Daigle, chief negotiating officer for the UNBC administration, says they are waiting for the faculty union to reach out to them to renegotiate an offer. Talks around an agreement went until past 2 a.m. the morning of the strike, when the union eventually declined their latest offer, she says.

“We have been working tirelessly for the past three years to find a way to address the compensation issues. Our faculty salaries have fallen behind our competitor’s because of the structure of it and how it’s designed,” Daigle says.

At the bargaining table, she says administrators presented an offer that would raise tenure faculty to 90 per cent of the way to the competitive wage target, calling the offer a “clear and undeniable commitment to build a structure that will service long-serving faculty members and provide much improved career progression for early career members.”

Daigle says administrators felt frustrated when negotations closed off with no deal in sight.

“The university is a publically funded institution, there’s no more money we can give them. It’s everything we could possibly put on the table.”

However, UNBC union chief negotiator Ted Binnema says they presented a proposal they hoped would “break through on salaries.”

“Unfortunately, at 2:45 a.m. the employer stated that they would consider that proposal only if we agreeed to delay the start of the strike,” Binnema wrote in a posting to the UNBC faculty association website.

“Given the number of unresolved issues that remained and the significant distance between positions, postponement was not an option.”

Binnema also wrote the union is “eager” to settle a collective agreement that “provides as much assurance as possible that students, faculty and staff three years from now will not face the kind of uncertainty – or job action – that they do now.”

While Kotowich-Laval says she understands student frustrations about class cancellations, she encourages students to educate themselves on the issues at hand to gain a better understanding of the bigger picture.

“[The decision to strike] was not taken lightly,” she says. “There are some very serious issues, not just today, but things that will stretch out in terms of keeping the university in a secure place. We just hope that reason prevails and we get recognized, because we’re a hard working group of people who go above and beyond.”

UNBC has more than 3,500 students and about 180 tenure and tenure-track faculty who could be affected by the strike.


 


brittany@terracestandard.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Protesters are walking outside the Terrace UNBC campus despite the cold, rainy weather conditions. (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Protesters are walking outside the Terrace UNBC campus despite the cold, rainy weather conditions. (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Protesters gathered outside the Terrace UNBC campus at 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 7, carrying signs reading ‘Good educators are priceless, not free’ and ‘On strike.’ (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Protesters gathered outside the Terrace UNBC campus at 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 7, carrying signs reading ‘Good educators are priceless, not free’ and ‘On strike.’ (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Protesters gathered outside the Terrace UNBC campus at 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 7, carrying signs reading ‘Good educators are priceless, not free’ and ‘On strike.’ (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Protesters gathered outside the Terrace UNBC campus at 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 7, carrying signs reading ‘Good educators are priceless, not free’ and ‘On strike.’ (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Just Posted

President of the Tahltan Central Government, Chad Norman Day, surveys Tahltan territory by helicopter in this July 2019 handout photo. The Tahltan Nation and the British Columbia government have struck what officials say is a historic agreement for shared decision-making for the nation’s territory in northwestern B.C., a hot spot for mineral exploration. Day says the deal shows they are “getting closer and closer to a true nation-to-nation relationship.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Tahltan Central Government
Tahltan Nation, B.C. government sign agreement for shared decision-making

Deal commits the province and the northwest B.C. nation to developing a land-use plan

Tahltan First Nation wildlife guardian, Jarett Quock, above and below right, was awarded the Outstanding Individual Leadership Award by the Indigenous Leadership Initiative on June 3. (Photos courtesy Adam Amir)
Tahltan wildlife guardian receives outstanding leadership award

Jarett Quock’s contributions were recognised by the Indigenous Leadership Initiative

Taylor Bachrach, NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley addresses Parliament on June 7, in call for the federal government to stop fighting Indigenous children in court and to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action. (Image: supplied from Facebook)
NDP motion calling for immediate reconciliation action passes

Skeena-Bulkley MP Taylor Bachrach addresses federal Parliament

The farmhouse in Glentanna where the founding meeting of the Bulkley Valley Credit Union took place on April 14, 1941. (BV Museum archive)
Bulkley Valley Credit Union announces finalists for legacy project donation

Community can vote for one of the three finalists from each area

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

Most Read