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TRU wants mediation to avert strike

Faculty in legal strike position as of Thursday after notice given
January 11, 2016 1:39 P.M.

TRU administration is encouraging labour mediation after faculty served 72-hour strike notice Monday, Jan. 11.

While the TRU Faculty Association said it remains open to mediation, president Tom Friedman said that the two sides are too far apart for a mediator to make any progress in talks that have stalled for almost a year.

Matt Milovick, vice-president of administration and finance, said TRU was disappointed to learn of the strike notice.

“TRU’s position is that mediation at this point is an important avenue to pursue to assist the parties in finding a resolution at the bargaining table,” Milovick said. “We are far apart, however I still feel there is room for mediation.”

Milovick said there is no possibility that administration will lock out faculty employees between now and Thursday, 8 a.m., when faculty will be in a legal position to strike. He said they remain optimistic that the two can return to bargaining.

“We have been motivated for 11 months,” he said.

Faculty association announced that strike notice had been issue to the B.C. Labour Relations Board Monday morning after the most recent talks were held on Thursday, Jan. 7.

“Unfortunately, the employer remains unwilling to acknowledge or address the issues that faculty have maintained are critical,” said Tom Friedman, TRUFA President.  “Before Christmas, the union submitted a bargaining package that included significant concessions from our original positions, but we have not seen any real movement from the employer.”

The association held a strike vote in November and received an 80 percent mandate. It was only the third time in the institution’s 45-year history that a strike vote was taken.

Friedman singled out the principle of shared governance as a key issue in the failure to reach agreement. He said the university was founded on that principle in 2005. It means join responsibility by faculty and administrators for academic decisions, mutual accountability, and transparency. TRUFA also wants a commitment from administration to hire full-time faculty to perform full-time, ongoing work.

“Currently, sufficient resources are not going to assist faculty in meeting student needs or in providing much-needed services that foster student success,” said Friedman. “Instead, a significant portion of the TRU budget increasingly goes into administration. In fact, administrative costs have risen dramatically since 2005, while expenditures on front-line education have remained static.”

Friedman said full-time administrative staff have increased by 183 percent, representing a 353 percent increase in the administrative budget since 2006, while the number of faculty has dropped slightly in the same period.

In principle, the association is not opposed to mediation, but there is a proviso, he said.

“Some feel mediation can only happen when the parties are close enough that there could be a meeting of the minds,” he said.

Milovick said faculty numbers had dropped by about 2.5 percent, but they have more recently increased slightly and that there are currently job postings for 20 TRUFA positions.

He cited data from Universities Canada showing that TRU dedicates the most resources of any post-secondary institution to teaching, while it ranks in the middle of the pack for spending on administration.

Students, who have been braced for the possibility of a strike since the fall, were only learning of the strike notice Monday morning.

“I would say, for the most part, we are a bit stressed, but we don’t want to get too far ahead,” said nursing student Nequila Horne.

There are 7,148 students attending the winter semester at TRU.

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