Memorial University’s faculty association and administration have reached a tentative deal after a nearly two-week strike.
Late Friday afternoon, the faculty association’s president, Ash Hossain, told CBC News they’d reached an agreement with the university.
In a press release issued by MUN early Thursday evening, interim provost and academic vice-president Neil Bose said, “Overall the contract provides a generous package of improvements to support our valued faculty colleagues, while at the same time maintaining the long-term viability of Memorial University.”
MUN says the next steps include ratification by the board of regents and the faculty association. The university said it wouldn’t share terms of the agreement while the ratification process is underway but said details, including a potential timeline for return to classes, will be shared directly with students as they become available.
At a news conference Friday evening, university president Vianne Timmons — speaking for the first time since the strike began — said both sides will look to vote on the agreement early next week.
“We have to negotiate a return to campus protocol with the faculty union, with MUNFA, and they’re meeting on Sunday to finalize that,” she said.
“The protocol agreement will decide exactly when everybody comes back to work, and that is the process.”
Timmons said MUN is looking at all options in terms of refunding students’ tuition fees for time missed and academic amnesty. A senate meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.
Riley Byrne, a MUN business student, attended Friday evening’s news conference to hear for the news for himself.
Byrne said students felt forgotten through the ordeal so far but he’s glad to see the strike possibly coming to an end.
“It’s kind of like the teachers and the administration are parents fighting a divorce settlement and the students, we’re being used as bargaining chips over the couple of few weeks,” he said.
“I just want to hear more with what’s going on with the students and hopefully we get some answers.”
Earlier on Friday, Memorial University of Newfoundland Faculty Association members approached the end of their second week on the picket lines Friday with a large rally held on the steps of the arts and administration building on campus in St. John’s.
The rally included a boost from other faculty unions across the country as members from universities in British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island travelled to St. John’s to stand in solidarity with MUN’s striking faculty.
Some brought donation cheques. Chants of “We will win” echoed across campus.
“Thousands of faculty members across the country are listening to what’s happening in that room,” said Ted Binnema, representing the University of Northern British Columbia Faculty Association.
Bargaining continued through the rally as it grew outside of campus doors with representatives of other unions joining the effort, including the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, and the Lecturers’ Union of Memorial University of Newfoundland.
Lisa Moores, an associate professor in psychology at MUN, said the faculty association is in “a different place” from where it was two weeks ago.
“This is not the same university that it was. We’re two weeks in and we’re cold but we’re stronger than ever,” Moores said.
The faculty association walked off the job on Jan. 30 after negotiations to reach a new contract with administration broke down.
On Thursday, Hossain said there were positive signs coming out of the bargaining meetings thought the week but added he thought the strike could push on for another two weeks, with the start of the university’s weeklong winter break, Feb. 20, on the horizon.
The faculty association was arguing for three priority items to be part of its newest deal: improved job security for temporary staff with a clear path to permanency for those who have been with MUN for a long time, post-retirement health benefits, and collegial governance, with its definition in the collective agreement.
Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
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