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University faculty striking back!

Pam Johnson

February 17, 2022
Faculty at Acadia University, Ontario Tech University, and the University of Lethbridge are currently on strike. These strikes follow successful strikes at the University of Manitoba in December and Concordia University of Edmonton in January which was the first ever Alberta faculty strike that forced stonewalling employers back to the table. And, more university faculties are taking strike votes in the coming weeks.
The issues in all of these strikes are remarkably similar: crushing workloads for all faculty, increasing part-time, precarious jobs, no wage increases, and lack of diversity and equity in hiring. 
University administrations have attempted to use the chaos and uncertainty of the pandemic to bully and stonewall faculties in bargaining. The Ontario Tech University Faculty Association (UOITFA) stated, ‘The University held firm on its ‘Final Offer’ that was rejected by 80% of our members…the University refused to engage with any of the UOITFA asks or priorities’.
The complete refusal to actually negotiate is the same situation that every striking faculty association has faced. On top of this, wage cap legislation brought in by conservative governments, including Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba, have been used as an excuse not to bargain. "We just feel like the government is in their back pocket or in that room with them, and that's not appropriate. The university is to be independent from the government," said University of Manitoba Faculty Association president Orvie Dingwall.
Where a bargaining impasse would usually generally move negotiations to arbitration, Universities, like Ontario Tech, have refused to allow this to happen.  
The pandemic has exacerbated the already deteriorating working conditions which is the result of decades of underfunding, refusal to create full-time jobs, contracting out and inequity.  
Faculty, who faced huge workload increases when they made a quick pivot to on-line, are saying enough is enough and taking strike action. 
Student support 
Students who have also faced continual chaos and uncertainty, are supporting striking faculty. In two years of the pandemic, universities have created huge strain on students. Faculty have been the front-line supporting students through the twists and turns of the pandemic. 
Students see that it is the administration, not faculty, making the decisions impacting them.  
Students have been organizing solidarity, showing up at picket lines and calling out the administration.
During the University of Manitoba strike in December, students blockaded all entrances to the administration building. "There's a fear students have that the administration just isn't listening," one student supporter said. "We're going to keep showing up whether or not they're listening and we're going to try our best to make it so that they have to listen."
Lethbridge students organized a rally in support of faculty prior to the strike. One student said, "I am a disability student and the last two years have been a complete nightmare. Most people would be dropping out. It hasn't been administration or anyone else reaching out to us, it's been our faculty".
Striking university faculty are leading the pandemic strike back among public sector workers that started last fall. They are showing the way to fight for public education and push back employers trying to use the pandemic to erode working conditions.
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