Full-time professors at the University of New Brunswick will be locked out as of Tuesday.
On Monday morning, the university administration announced that it will be locking out professors Tuesday morning at 7 a.m.
UNB president Eddy Campbell said they decided to lock out the professors to avoid further complications, such as professors crossing the picket line.
“Legislation in New Brunswick allows members to cross the picket line if they wish to work. And that has awkward aspects for us, like not knowing who’s working and not knowing who’s not,” Campbell said.
“We just thought it’s clear we need to be able to say that ‘no full-time faculty are at work during this time.’ ”
AUNBT president Miriam Jones said locking out employees is not standard practice, noting the faculty strike at St. Thomas University in 2008.
“The fact of the matter is it’s very unusual and New Brunswick seems to be the only province where administration seems fond of locking out their staff. They did it at St. Thomas a few years back and that didn’t go very well for the administration,” Jones said.
“If anyone tells you it’s standard practice, it’s not standard practice. It’s a decision that they made and it’s not at all usual. I couldn’t begin to guess why they would do it.”
Campbell said he hopes that the strike will end quickly, however, if it reaches the point where a semester may be lost, the university may resort to back-to-work legislation.
“When I think about this, governments are usually very reluctant to interfere with the mechanisms of free collective bargaining . . . it’s one of the weapons the union has in negotiations with employers,” Campbell said.
However, he said universities could be an exception to the rule. Since the provincial government has millions invested into universities, as well as money invested in student financial aid and loans, he said the province might step in.
“The longer the term would be at risk, I think the government would become very concerned indeed,” Campbell said. “And I can tell you the government is very concerned today.”
Campbell said it would be entirely up to the province to intervene or not. He said he hopes it doesn’t come to that.
“There are reasons to hope that we might be able to agree between ourselves to go to arbitration in advance of such intervention,” he said.
Jones said Campbell’s thoughts on the possibility of back-to-work legislation were “appalling.” She said it shows the university has no intention of reaching a deal.
“It’s very clear that they have no intention of negotiating in good faith with us at all,” Jones said.
Jones said AUNBT would continue negotiations as soon as the university has something new to offer.
“We’re ready to talk to them again when there is a reason to talk to them,” she said. “If they call us and say they has something they need to say, that’s great, we will talk to them.”
Campbell said the university would also like to resume negotiations. But like Jones, he’s not sure what there is to talk about at this time.
“We are very far apart. It’s very unfortunate,” he said. “I honestly wish we had something different to say [but] I do not.”
With this being the first strike in faculty strike in UNB’s history, Campbell said Monday was a “dark day” for the university. He said he understands the anxiety students are feeling.
“They are not privy to the negotiations. They have to rely on each sides’ descriptions of what’s happening,” Campbell said. “And if you’re looking at the websites, you can see we have very different points of view on how we got to this point.”
He also acknowledged how powerless students are at this point.
“I think the uncertainty, stress and worry for our students is horrifying really,” Campbell said. “They are the most vulnerable in this. They are caught in the middle.”