Deal getting closer in strike at St. Michael's College

  • November 21, 2012

UPDATED 22/11/12

TORONTO - As University of St. Michael's College contract lecturers, teaching assistants and continuing education instructors prepare for their second week on strike, union leaders and university administration both say a deal is getting closer.

"Students are feeling an impact," said Celtic Mythology lecturer Daniel Brielmaier, speaking for CUPE Local 3902 Unit 4. "We don't like that they're feeling it."

Papers aren't getting marked, some classes have been cancelled and others are bogging down without the 38 sessional lecturers, teaching assistants and part-time instructors who teach at St. Michael's, said Brielmaier.

St. Mike's administration claims the strike hasn't been felt by very many students.

"Some courses are being taught; some are being rescheduled. The effect is relatively small at this point," said Robert Edgett, the executive director of alumni affairs and development who is acting as media liaison for the Catholic college at the University of Toronto. "But our concern continues to be for students. We want to be sure that their term and exams are held. That's why we're working so hard to come to some resolution."

A rally in front of the Kelly Library at noon Nov. 21 attracted about 60 students and union activists in support of the contract teachers.

Talks were scheduled to continue Thursday afternoon after being put off a day while the administration worked out a new offer.

The union, which represents academic staff on contracts of less than 12 months, has been pushing for a greater degree of job security. The mostly younger academics want a right of first refusal if their course is being offered again.

The system of repeat short-term contracts with no assurance of future work has been hardest on theology lecturers, many of whom have been teaching the same course for years but never know whether they will work again next year, said Brielmaier.

"We're not going to negotiate or talk about the terms of the negotiation in public," said Edgett. "We're going to leave that to the bargaining table."

The union members claim to have Pope Benedict XVI on their side, citing his thoughts in the encyclical Caritas in Veritate on the right to secure and meaningful work.

The administration is confident the two sides will quickly find a solution.

"I hope we'll beat the NHL," said Edgett.

"We just want to get a contract and go back to teaching," said Local 3902 chair Abe Nasirzadeh.

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