author: john loeppky | editor-in-chief
Some take issue with student union position
With possible strike action to occur on Mar. 28 from the University of Regina Faculty Association (URFA), the University of Regina Students’ Union has released a statement.
The Mar. 23 document, signed by president Shawn Wiskar and vice president student affairs Jermain McKenzie, centres on the union’s view of how students will be affected in any form of job action.
“This week, both bargaining units took time to meet and discuss their perspectives with students. We thank Dr. Jason Childs and Dr. Marc Spooner from URFA and Dr. Vianne Timmons and Dr. Tom Chase from the University administration for taking the time to talk with concerned students. This is a great first step, but there is still much more work to do when it comes to dialoguing with the students of the University of Regina.”
“URFA has served strike notice to the university contingent on the failure of the bargaining sessions of March 25th & 26th. Regardless of whether it is valid or not, this has signified to students that job action is likely imminent. Both sides must be honest with themselves and come to the table with the realization that [bolded words] students will lose the most in any form of job action [end bolded words]. Both sides have to be willing to make concessions on behalf of students to keep the students in class. It is not enough for administration to refuse to budge from their final offer or to make concessions to accommodate the labour concerns of URFA, nor is it enough for URFA to refuse to make concessions to accommodate the immediate budgetary concerns of the University. It is time to live up to the promises made this week by bargaining in good faith towards an agreement that is in the best interests of not only the parties in dispute but more importantly in the best interests of students.”
The document specifically references flights for international students, student loan issues that could arise with a longer semester, and disruptions to summer job terms.
The Regina Public Interest Research Group (RPIRG) was vocal in a Facebook post of their own about their resistance to URSU’s rhetoric.
“Students will experience an immediate impact, yes. But so will academic staff who will be not working and on the picket line – they receive a fraction of their wage while on the line and they and the lives of their families will also be disrupted. To ignore this is to conveniently erase the realities of job action for workers.
“This statement and (and others made earlier) appear to only consider the short-term and individual impacts of a potential strike.”
RPIRG’s reply spoke to the efforts of past workers and their effort as well URFA’s support of the “freeze tuition” campaign championed by URSU, saying that “We now have an opportunity to show up for URFA and return the favour.”
A town hall wwas originally pitched to URSU by a representative of URFA on Feb. 15, but was declined, with URSU President Shawn Wiskar referenced a want to stay away from taking sides in a reply email.
“URSU is all for the idea of giving students information on the CBA negotiations. We would be willing to promote the event through all forms of media and help you tell your side of the story. URSU however has decided to remain neutral in this matter now that it has reached an impasse. Therefore, if we are to host a town hall, there are criteria that would need to be met to uphold URSU’s neutrality in the matter.”
This came in stark contrast to URSU’s show of solidarity previous to Wiskar’s appointment, in a release dated Nov. 9 written by McKenzie.
“We are encouraged to see the faculty members standing together on the issues facing them, and we hope they will stand with us as students when we vehemently oppose any future attempts at a tuition increase. We are all in this together and it is our unity that will change the status quo and deliver for us the educational environment where we can all reach our full potential as teachers and students.”
Since then, two town halls have been hosted, one by URFA and the other by the administration. A source close to URFA has noted that administration backed away from the two town hall solution proposed by URSU where they would host two separate events.
URSU also released a second statement on Mar. 23 with the details of how the union would be supporting students during any possible job action. Their release has been edited in format only.
“…URSU is doing everything it can to prevent a strike from occurring, however it appears that some sort of job action by URFA members is likely. In the event of a strike, URSU makes the following pledges to all students on campus:”
“All URSU services will be available during regular business hours to the students.”
“The Owl will be open 11:00 am -11:00 pm Monday-Friday. URSU Member Services will be open 8:30am – 4:30pm Monday-Friday (8:30am- 7:00pm on Wednesday). All student funding (club funding, PEC funding, emergency bursary funding) will still be available to students. The student advocate will be available daily for appointments. Please email ahead of time due to a high volume of requests (firstname.lastname@example.org). Executives and URSU staff will post regular updates on both the URSU social media platforms and website for student reference. Executives will be available daily to meet with students and discuss their individual situations on a drop-in or appointment basis.”
“… If the semester is extended and students run into issues regarding a lease that will be expiring, URSU has spoken to Residence Services and received a guarantee that they will accommodate students co a short term basis. If the strike is long term and students need to return at a later date to complete finals, there will also be spots available. Students in need of additional assistance affording an extended stay should book an appointment with the student advocate (email@example.com). Counselling services will not be affected by the campus strike, and URSU is looking at implementing electronic counselling services to meet an increase in demand if needed. To book an appointment go to https://www.uregina.ca/student/counselling. Food services on campus will likely not be affected by the strike and URSU will provide updates if hours of operations are changed. The following international student supports will be available. Study Visas set to expire during the end of the semester or duration of the strike will be extended as per Canadian legislation. For more information, please contact UR International or Immigration Canada. Students who need assistance for the cancellation or rebooklng of flights should reach out to UR International or the student advocate. Emergency support funding may be available.”
If you’re a student, faculty, or administrative member affected by the negotiations and wish to share your story, please email our editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article has been edited to reflect that the first suggestion of a town hall was for students to ask faculty questions and not to have both parties present.