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Jody Carr talking with student leaders

The University of New Brunswick faculty strike was a main topic of conversation in a meeting between New Brunswick post-secondary minister Jody Carr and Fredericton student leaders Friday afternoon.

UNB Student Union president Ben Whitney said Carr called the meeting to get the student perspective on the UNB strike.

“He just really wanted to gauge my feeling on how things were going. Just get the student perspective on everything.” Whitney said. “He also wanted to know about the Law Student Society letter as well.”

The UNB Law Society recently sent a letter to the legislature calling on provincial government to intervene through options such as a third-party mediator or binding arbitration.

“He definitely understood and said they are watching things very closely. They’ve kind of been at arm’s length so far, because [they want] to respect the collective bargaining process,” Whitney said.

“But he said they are watching it closely and they’re going to figure out their course of action from now on.”

Whitney said the UNBSU supports the Law Society letter, however, they don’t want to support the idea of using back-to-work legislation.

“We’re not advocating for something like that right now,” Whitney said. “Essentially, the two sides are so far apart, we’ve missed two weeks and essentially we need someone in there to give them a push to get them back to the negotiating table.”

Carr said in a phone interview with the Brunswickan that he will be monitoring the situation this weekend. If there is no movement between the two parties, he will say more on the issue next week.

Another topic brought up at the meeting was student financial aid. The province planned to announce changes to student financial aid this month, but this will be postponed until a later time due to the strike.

Whitney said the New Brunswick Student Alliance, who had two members present at the meeting, would be submitting their suggestions for changes next week.

“They said they’re really excited to see that and use that as much as possible,” he said. “Essentially we’re going to have to wait and see.”

Whitney said he told Carr that despite different opinions about the labour dispute, most students have one thing in common.

“We’re all just really feeling caught in the middle of this and we really just want to get things back to classes,” he said.  “We’ve got folks on both sides of the issue but everybody I think just wants a negotiated agreement and everyone wants to get back to class.”

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