Vancouver Island University’s negotiating team is back at the table with the faculty association, whose members have been on strike since Thursday. The union had extended the offer to resume bargaining on Monday and the administration has accepted.
At the centre of the dispute has been disagreement over the language regarding layoffs in the collective agreement. The union had initially requested that the university agree to committing to a policy that would see staff and faculty laid off only if the institution was forced to declare a financial emergency, effectively a “no-layoffs” policy. The university rejected that proposal on the grounds that the provincial government has mandated that all universities and colleges bring forth cost-neutral budgets.
However, the Nanaimo Daily News reported on Monday that the union appears to be softening its position. “All we’re asking for is that if layoffs are planned, the university needs to justify it in an open and transparent way. They’ve said no to everything we’ve offered up this point, so the ball is now in their court,” Vancouver Island University Faculty Association’s chief steward Dominique Roelants said.
Today, the Daily News followed up with a response from VIU spokesperson Toni O’Keefe who said this is the first the university had heard of the apparent change in position, but that she is “heartened” and “encouraged,” by the resumption of talks.
Faculty president Dan McDonald also says he is encouraged by a return to bargaining, stating “I don’t believe we’re that far apart on the issues and I think we can resolve our differences in just one day of negotiations.”
On Monday, more than 200 students rallied on the picket lines in support of saving the semester for the more than 18,000 full and part time students who have had their classes interrupted. One student dressed in a cap and gown and carried a sign that read “Students Are Collateral Damage.”
Photograph: VIU faculty on strike, by Sherry Wota, courtesy of the Navigator