Addressing the “what ifs” of a faculty strike at TRU

The threat of job action as negotions, under a media blackout, continue

There are many questions yet to be answered regarding what exactly will happen if the TRU Faculty Association (TRUFA) decides to go on strike. At the beginning of the current round of mediation, the parties seemed to be far apart on many important issues. If mediation were to break down, TRUFA may undertake some form of class-disrupting job action.

TRUFA and university administration have agreed to a media blackout while mediation is in progress with little information given about what course job action may take if the mediation fails to secure an agreement.

One of the deciding factors of how long TRUFA may be able to maintain a strike is its ability to supply its members with strike pay.

According to the strike policy posted on TRUFA’s website, TRUFA maintains a defence fund to support its members in the event of a strike. The strike policy specifies that all full-time employees would receive $100 per day.

TRUFA is also positioned to receive help from the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators (FPSE) of B.C. According to the strike policy, if the strike persists longer than three days, the FPSE contributes $60 of the total $100 from its strike fund.

TRUFA’s policy does require the cooperation from its members, however.

“Members appointed to 100% workload positions will be required to perform required duties (making signs, phoning, delivering supplies, communication, picket line duties etc.) for daily shifts of 2 or 3 hours for a total of up to 15 hours of support per week per FTE will be required to collect strike pay,” the policy reads. The policy also states that TRUFA members who cross a picket line will be fined a day’s salary.

Some insight into the course that job action might take can be found in other cases of faculty strikes in B.C.

All bargaining between university administrations and their faculty in B.C. is required to abide by the 2014 Economic Stability Mandate, which provides guidelines for all public sector management negotiating with their employees in B.C. Many of the contentious issues in the other strikes are similar to those at TRU.

The two most recent faculty strikes in B.C. have taken place at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) and Capilano University. The UNBC faculty was on strike for two weeks before resorting to binding arbitration to settle their dispute. The strike at Capilano began in the final days of the 2015 spring semester and was not settled until May.

One concern for students is whether or not their tuition will be refunded if the job action disrupts classes. UNBC offered their returning students a tuition credit and funded bursaries on behalf of the graduating class. Capilano justified its choice not to refund tuition in a press release:

“Although the CFA (Capilano Faculty Association) strike commenced three days prior to the end of classes and the beginning of the final examination period, students will complete their academic terms and receive their final grades. As a result, the university will not issue tuition fee refunds or rebates.”

With a media blackout in effect and negotiations still underway, students at TRU can only hope for a resolution and guess at a possible strike’s duration and aftermath.