It’s official, classes will be cancelled at Vancouver Island University on Thursday. “We’re going on strike tomorrow for sure,” faculty association president Dan McDonald said. After a short bargaining session with the administration today, both sides agreed to call back the government appointed mediator who, only yesterday, declared that an agreement could not be reached. Negotiations are to resume Thursday afternoon.
At the centre of the dispute is the status of layoff provisions in the collective agreement. The union wants the current language strengthened so that faculty reductions could not take place unless the university declares a financial crisis. It is a provision that would amount to a “no layoffs” policy.
A message left with the administration Wednesday afternoon was not immediately returned, but spokesperson Toni O’Keefe previously said that due to a government mandated budget freeze, the university “can’t negotiate on cost.” O’Keefe also said that there will likely be staff or faculty “reductions of some type” when VIU brings down its budget.
While McDonald said it is job security that is the “deal breaker,” other issues on the table include faculty involvement in choosing senior administrators, job security for contract faculty, and developing a uniform policy across the university so that department chairs are eligible for lighter teaching loads.
When asked to speculate on how long the strike will last he said that “if we have successful talks, it could be for one day . . . or it could be much longer.”