Faculty issue 72-hour strike notice, accepts mediation offer

Despite accepting an offer to go into mediation, TRUFA remains prepared to take job action

TRUFA president Tom Friedman at Monday morning's press conference following the union's strike notice. (Jim Elliot/The Omega)

TRUFA president Tom Friedman at Monday morning’s press conference following the union’s strike notice. (Jim Elliot/The Omega)

The faculty union says it “remains open to resolution,” but on Monday morning it issued a 72-hour notice to strike, as it’s required to do under provincial labour law before taking job action. Late Monday, the university said that TRUFA had agreed to its mediation offer and that it was making arrangements for that to happen as soon as possible, but the threat of job action remains.

The notice comes after the latest meeting between the TRU Faculty Association (TRUFA) and TRU administrators on Jan. 7, the latest meeting in 11 months of negotiation. The two parties began meeting again this fall, and more recently in November and December, following the faculty union’s strike vote where 80 per cent of its members voted in favour of job action.

In the two parties’ last meeting on Jan. 7, TRU made the offer to bring in mediators to help resolve the disagreement, but TRUFA did not agree until after it had issued its strike notice, and maintains that it may still take job action.

“Unfortunately, the employer remains unwilling to acknowledge or address the issues that faculty have maintained are critical,” said TRUFA president Tom Friedman in a Monday morning Facebook post. “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.”

“Our bargaining is an attempt to ensure that faculty voices are heard. That means that we have to have transparency and accountability when it comes to administrative decisions, particularly on things like workload, on staffing and on budgets,” Friedman said at a Monday morning press conference.

A media blackout has meant that only bits and pieces of negotiations have leaked out, but today’s strike notice means that the two remain far apart. Lately, TRUFA has been going after the number of administrators at the university.

“[…] A significant portion of the TRU budget increasingly goes into administration,” Friedman said in Monday’s Facebook post. “In fact, administrative costs have risen dramatically since 2005, while expenditures on front-line education have remained static.”

In an unsigned statement issued to the TRU community via email, the university said it was still “optimistic” that there wouldn’t be a labour disruption, but none of the statements in the release pointed to immediate resolution.

“TRU is disappointed that TRUFA is issuing 72-hour strike notice saying they are open to mediation as despite not responding to TRU’s January 7. 2016 offer of mediation to assist the parties in finding resolution at that bargaining table,” the statement reads.

As of Thursday morning, the faculty union will be able to walk off the job, but it’s not yet known how TRUFA job action will come and the impact of students remains unknown.

“We’re not going to say that the impact on students will be minimal. We’re not sure at this point. A lot will depend on the way the employer responds,” Friedman said. “Our intention is to make sure that the employer understands the seriousness of our position and we’re keeping all of our options open. We know that students might very well be affected by this. We hope that the impact on students will not be major.”

“It is expected that TRUFA will provide advance notice of the type of strike action they intend to conduct so that students are informed of any impact on their studies,” TRU said in an emailed statement.

– with files from Jim Elliot