Special mediator appointed to UNBC FA strike

B.C.'s Labour Minister has appointed a special mediator to help the sides in the ongoing dispute between the University of Northern British Columbia reach an agreement, a ministry spokesperson said Tuesday afternoon.

“The UNBC Faculty Association requested a special mediator to assist at the collective bargaining table and the employer has agreed, therefore I have appointed a special mediator to help both sides reach an agreement," Harry Bains said in a statement issued Tuesday evening. 

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“Our government supports the collective bargaining process and I firmly believe that collective agreements are best when negotiated at the bargaining table. I am encouraged that both parties have agreed to work with a mediator and am hopeful that timely resolution of the dispute can be achieved.“

In a statement issued Tuesday morning, the UNBC Faculty Association called on Bains to bring in the third party and later the same day, the university's administration came out in support.

With the strike in its 20th day today and regular classes scheduled to end this Tuesday, UNBC FA said Bains needs to act quickly to save this semester without disrupting the next one.

But it said the sides remain at loggerheads, and claimed administration insists on making impossible demands.

In particular, it said administration is seeking permission to violate its Faculty Association members’ contracts outside the collective agreement, despite legal advice that this would open the union to legal and financial risk.

“Faced with eight months of the Employer’s stubborn insistence that we do something illegal, the Faculty Association is now calling on Minister of Labour, the Honourable Harry Bains, to appoint a Special Mediator,” said Faculty Association President Stephen Rader in the statement

“We will not allow the Faculty Association to be destroyed by the reckless demands of our administrators, and we are heart-broken for our students whose lives are being upended, as well as our CUPE and Unite Here co-workers who have been on the picket lines with us.”

With the help of a mediator, it said bargaining could be completed within one day of fulsome negotiations, "but without mediation the strike could stretch on for weeks."

UNBC administration endorsed the move in a statement posted shortly before 1 p.m. today. "Hopefully this will lead to continued productive conversations that will result in students returning to class and our employees coming back to work," administration said.

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