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Student nurses, lawyers and engineers worried for their future

Their position is clear: students want their voices heard.

UNB administration and the professors are taking a sympathetic tone towards student concerns regarding the strike, claiming they will meet with the other party when they have something new to bring.

For some faculties however, this may be too little, too late.

The Student Union’s faculty councillors have been square in the middle of this conflict, trying to have the unique demands of their students recognized through the din of rhetoric on both sides. According to several councillors, however, their worries are not going unheeded.

“Students just want to get back to studying,” said Andrew Russell, engineering councillor. “[Losing the semester to a strike] would be disastrous because many classes are offered only once a year, some only every second year. These are classes we need to graduate.”

Though every student faces the real threat of a lost semester, those in faculties such as law, nursing and engineering also risk missing crucial deadlines for exams and co-op placements unique to those programs.

Oliver Gorman-Asal, law councillor, believes this year’s outgoing nurses, lawyers and engineers are at risk of unemployment.

“My students have contracts that require them to start articling so that they pass the bar on time,” he said. “Some of us will lose our jobs because of this selfish, hateful bickering. If either side cared at all about any of us at all, they would not have waited until this crucial moment to butt heads.”

Laura Carr, councillor for the nursing faculty, said nursing students are feeling the same way.

“My greatest fear is that no one on either side is listening to the students,” Carr said. “My constituents and I are tired of not being heard.”
UNB Administration is keenly aware of student concerns regarding these time-sensitive issues, said Dr. Laurelle LeVert, associate vice-president of UNB Saint John and student liaison for the collective bargaining negotiations.

“We understand that students and the public are very frustrated, saying, ‘You both say you want to [negotiate], but you’re actually not back at the table,’ ” she said.

LeVert said that while the full bargaining teams have not met for the past two weeks, the two chief negotiators have spoken a number of times, and have also been in touch with the mediator for brief meetings. UNB’s hope seems to be an understanding wherein students can return to classes while negotiations with AUNBT continue, but are realistic about their chances.

“Thus far the AUNBT has made it clear that they want to come back to the table for us to present an enhanced offer, and we’re simply not in a position to do that,” LeVert said.

LeVert did praise the student demonstrations last Friday, and the Student Union’s neutral stand. However, having students at the bargaining table is a different story.

“The bargaining table itself is a sensitive type of negotiation that happens between the employer and employee. So while we don’t see a direct role for students in the bargaining process, certainly students are being very successful in having their voices heard,” she said.

For many students, however, something big needs to change.

“I’m disgusted and embarrassed by AUNBT and UNB’s indolence and complete disregard for the future of its students,” said Gorman-Asal.

“If any union member or administration member reads this, resolve your differences and find compromise. End this utter childishness.”

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