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UNBC binding arbitration hearings begin Thursday

The labour dispute between UNBC and its faculty is about to be put to bed.

Binding arbitration meetings between the two parties begin tomorrow.

A two week strike by staff was ended in March after the university applied for an arbitrator under Section 55 of the BC Labour Code. Section 55 lays out a special process for first collective agreements.

“This is the first time that a university contract has gone to section 55 under the labour code.” UNBC Faculty Association President Stephen Rader said “So it’s all a little bit up in the air, but it certainly could set precedent for other universities here.”

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The Faculty Association has submitted a 140 page submission to arbitrator Stanley Layton while UNBC stated their case with 81 pages.

“The arbitrator will consider everyone’s presentations and precedent in Canadian law and come out with a final decision.” Rader said “Now we’re not sure when that will happen, it will probably be sometime in the new year. But everyone is very much so looking forward to having the process concluded and knowing what their contract will be.”

Articles surrounding salaries, benefits, sick leave, tenure and the overall length of the agreement are in front of the arbitrator.

The Faculty Association wants salaries to be closer in line with other similarly sized Canadian universities while the employer’s points to declining enrollment and rising costs, saying they need to stick within the province’s economic stability mandate.

“I have confidence that we will be able to move forward.” Interm UNBC VP of Administration and Finance and HR director Bard Daigle said “Doesn’t mean to say we won’t have other disputes, that’s the nature of labour administration relationships… We are a fairly large organization and we are unionized, we will have labour disputes from time to time. This arbitration process is a way to settle those disputes.”

This summer, UNBC issued students who lost class time due to the strike a $250 credit. Additionally, $25,000 was transferred to the 2015 Class Gift in recognition of graduating students. The Class Gift project is an initiative of the graduating class to provide bursaries for students.

The rest of the money saved by the university during the strike is going towards student recruitment, marketing and to offset costs related to mediation/arbitration.

Arbitration dates are set for November 19,20,21 and 30 and December 7th.

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