Patrick Barbosa, a spokesman for the University of Vancouver Students` Union, says the VIUSU supports the faculty association`s right to bargain collectively, but the organization remains officially neutral. "We`re not taking sides. We are for the students," he said. Toni O`Keeffe, VIU`s communications director, says the university has no intention of withdrawing from its position to keep the current contract unchanged until 2012. "A non-layoff clause is a huge cost that is being moved into the future," she said. The B.C. government has mandated that all universities and colleges have cost-neutral budgets this year. Earlier this week, O`Keeffe said it expected there to be "reductions of any kind" from faculties or staff. "At this point," McDonald said during a short break in collective bargaining Thursday afternoon, "it`s a bit like a snowy day." The president of the Vancouver Island University Faculty Association (VIUFA), whose members went on strike at 8 a.m. yesterday, wants to reassure the more than 18,000 students whose classes are cancelled that it is "hopeful" that a solution will be found without compromising the semester. However, the two sides remain miles apart.
In order not to increase the higher education budget, the administration`s negotiating position is to extend the collective agreement that expired last spring and extend it until 2012. Wages would be frozen for the duration of the contract. University spokeswoman Toni O`Keefe said the negotiations failed because VIUFA wanted a "no Layoffs" clause in the collective agreement. "We can`t do that," she said, citing government`s request B.C for public universities to freeze their budgets. "We can`t negotiate costs." In the collective agreement on redundancies, which the union says is a "deal breaker", union actions were triggered because of the language. VIUFA, McDonald says, wants the university to accept a clause that only provides for layoffs if the government is forced to declare a financial crisis. This would pretty much require the university to implement a policy of non-layoffs. Asked if the faculty`s bargaining team was prepared to admit anything, McDonald`s replied, "Not at this particular point." The current collective agreement provides for layoffs "for reasons of evidence and a significant decrease in enrolment over an extended period and for demonstrable reasons of reductions in programs or services, including the non-feasibility of non-educational organizations." During the first day of the strike, hundreds of teachers appeared to perform picnic tasks. "It was raining, but the diapers were full," McDonald says.
They were joined by faculty associations from Vancouver Community College, Camosum College and Langara College, who also threatened to strike. Dozens of students also showed up for the striking faculty and carried signs reading "Students in Support of VIUFA." The EXECUTIVE of VIUFA has set a meeting of all non-regular members of the faculty: Date: Friday, October 2, 2020 Time: 10:00 via Zoom Agenda: Welcome to new and recurring members of VIUFA – your certified trade […] O`Keefe says the university has explored ways to supplement the term if "the strike lasts more than two weeks." Students were able to see how the semester was extended and/or classes could be organized in the evenings and weekends to "compress some of the lost learning time," O`Keefe said.