Just weeks into a new school year, Western University and its roughly 1,650 faculty members are locked in a contractdispute, with faculty taking a strike vote among its members.
Students in the dark about Western faculty strike vote
But if there’s potential for labour disruption, it’s news to many students still easing into their new academic routines.
“We literally had no clue,” said Melissa Trueman, a fifth year student at the university. “Students are trying to accomplish a goal but they can’t do it if their professors are on strike.
“On the other side professors work hard and they deserve what they deserve. If they told us about this, we could see their side more.”
Several students said they couldn’t comment on something about which they had no information.
“The student body doesn’t know much right now,” said student Emi Roni.
Faculty are working under the terms of their previous four-year contract, which ended on June 30.
Results of the strike vote are not expected until after the polls close next Wednesday.
According to Dan Belliveau, president of University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA), a strike vote is a way for membership to indicate their support for the negotiating team and their stand on the issues.
It is also gives the bargaining team leverage at the bargaining table.
Potentially, faculty may consider other kinds of labour action such as rotating strikes, one-day strikes or work to rule, he said.
Key issues are compensation and benefits for all faculty members, and job security for contract and part-time faculty.
Belliveau said a wage increase of an average 1.1 per cent a year is below the inflation rate.
“Effectively, it amounts to a pay cut over the life of the collective agreement,” he said.
Earlier this year, both sides filed to have a conciliator, or mediator, from the Ministry of Labour assist with negotiations.
“One hasn’t been assigned yet,” said Helen Connell, associate vice-president of communications and public affairs.
Connell said a strike vote isn’t unusual during contract talks.
“It’s a very common process for a union to hold a strike vote as part of their negotiations,” Connell said. “We remain optimistic we will reach a settlement. Everyone is working hard to get there.”
Belliveau agreed a strike vote is a tool of collective bargaining.
“It’s premature to say what the future of negotiations are,” he said.
According to their website, UWOFA has approximately $4.9 million in reserve to pay members in the event of a strike.
In addition, the Canadian Association of University Teachers’ defense fund contributes $84, tax free, each calendar day for each member after the first three days of a strike. UWOFA’s board can decide to top up this amount.