The UNB Student Union is asking students not to pay their tuition until the Jan. 17 deadline.
“If there’s no guarantee that classes will continue past [the first] week, students should hold on to their money until we know when they will,” said UNBSU president Ben Whitney.
The truce to prevent job action from both the university and the professors’ union AUNBT ended on Jan. 2, which means a strike or lockout can happen with 24 hours’ notice. UNB has asked to have additional meetings and extend the truce until the third week of January, but the union has yet to decide whether they will continue with the meetings.
Whitney said if things are not settled by the Jan. 17 deadline, the UNBSU will push for the deadline to be moved, excusing students from the $50 fee for late tuition payments.
“Hopefully it doesn’t come to this, but if it does, that’s the first step,” he said.
Whitney hopes asking students to refrain from paying tuition will send a message.
“At the end of the day, we want a new collective agreement,” he said. “Students want to continue their studies uninterrupted.”
On Friday night, the AUNBT bargaining committee will meet to discuss options. President Miriam Jones said a definitive decision would come after Monday’s negotiation meeting.
“At this point there is a strike mandate, so we don’t need to ask the members for that,” Jones said. “It’s essentially the questions deciding whether we’re in that position or not.”
The union has been renting a strike headquarters in both Fredericton and Saint John since December. On Friday, at the Fredericton HQ on McLeod Ave., professors were helping move in furniture and painting picket signs.
“You have to be ready to strike in order for it to be a reasonable piece of leverage. No one is going to take you seriously if you’re not ready,” Jones said. “Nine times out of 10 this kind of preparation ends up not resulting in a strike, but you need to do it.”
Despite the full preparation, she said the union hopes Monday’s meeting can be productive.
“If there is any possibility of a negotiated settlement, we want to pursue that,” Jones said. “But we’re not going to be stalled. We are at the point now where we need to see some movement or there is not point in continuing to talk.”
The university said in a statement that the focus is to get a deal done.
“Discussions are continuing next week. We are focused on continuing to resolve outstanding issues and remain hopeful that an agreement can be reached,” the statement read.
Whitney is also still holding hope that an agreement can be reached.
“There’s an obvious tension building,” he said. “I’m hoping things can be resolved without resorting to a job action, but the negotiations this week will tell.”