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Strike threat at STU

Wednesday could bring a strike vote for the St. Thomas University Support and Administration Union (STUSAU) if they reject a final offer on their first contract.

The STUSAU represents the support and administrative workers at STU. This includes members in the Registrar’s office, Student Services, Residence Life, IT services, Financial Services, Recruitment, Facilities Management, Communications, Alumni, Drama, Admissions, Campus Ministry, Athletics as well as Office Coordinators.

The union has been negotiating their first contract since they were certified in July 2010. On Dec. 19, STU administration made a final offer to the STUSAU negotiating team.

“We were able to sign off on six of 12 outstanding articles and we ended the evening even though progress was being made. Talks were cut off and we were given a final offer,” said Jennifer Burry, president of the STUSAU.

But Burry said that the STUSAU did not want a final offer from the university. Instead, the union wants a negotiated contract, which would mean they could negotiate the remaining outstanding articles.

On Jan. 7, the members of the STUSAU will vote on the final offer. A “No” vote is an automatic strike vote.

“The outcome of the Jan. 7 vote may result in a strike vote,” said Burry. “Should that happen, we would aim to get the employer back to the table to negotiate the remaining articles. If they cannot be resolved, a strike may occur.”

“We don’t want to worry students, but job security and the remaining articles are extremely important for our membership.”

Two of the union’s main concerns are unfair hiring and firing practices and workplace bullying. As of the Dec. 19 final offer, the STUSAU and STU had signed off on articles about harassment discrimination and health and safety.

“Some of the reasons that we organized were amongst those articles as well as respect, communication and transparency,” said Burry.

“Having time at the table, definitely actually having the administration allocate the time at the table and getting their face to face time with both teams, has definitely been a struggle within the last four years.”

Burry said that the union is still hopeful they will be able to negotiate the remaining articles.

“Lockouts and strikes are not the solution, and everything should be done to reach a negotiated collective agreement,” Burry said. “We still would like to see a negotiated first contract. There’s still time for that. We want a tentative agreement, not a final offer.”

The current situation with the STUSAU is only one illustration of the university environment toward unions in New Brunswick.

“I think in general it would be safe to say that the university environment in New Brunswick appears to be less welcoming of unions than ever before,” said Miriam Jones, president of the AUNBT, which went on strike last January.

The repercussions of the faculty strike at UNB last year are still being felt today and Jones said she hopes the STUSAU and STU will be able to reach an agreement.

“Strikes are to be avoided. I hope that the STU administration will … make a fair settlement with STUSAU.”

The STUSAU will vote on the final offer on the evening of Jan. 7. Check Thebruns.ca for updates as this story develops.

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