Strike FAQ for students

No one wants a strike at Western. Please rest assured that UWOFA, your professors’ association, is working as hard as we can to avoid one. A strike deadline of November 9, 2018 has been set, but UWOFA and Western Admin are still negotiating and will be doing so right up to the deadline or a settlement is reached. If a deal seems likely, the deadline can also be deferred or delayed.

We know talk of a strike causes students a lot of anxiety, so we’ve prepared a set of answers to frequently asked questions here.

Remember: Western administration does not ‘own’ the university. Students, librarians and archivists, staff, and faculty comprise the heart of Western.

Q: What are the issues?

We are working on two main issues this round of bargaining: job security for contract faculty members and compensation that keeps pace with the rate of inflation.

Q: How do these issues affect students?

The quality of your education is deeply connected to the working conditions of your professors. We work to protect and enhance our working conditions at Western but doing this protects and enhances your learning conditions.

  • Have you ever had trouble contacting a professor whose class you wished to take, or who you wanted to ask for a letter of reference? Have you noticed that some of the classes you sign up for do not have a faculty member’s name attached to them until the very last minute? Well over 30% of teachers at Western are paid per course, work on short-term contracts, and have no job security, benefits or pensions. Many of these professors are barely scraping by because Western’s administration is addicted to this cheap, just-in-time model of employment. Improving job security and compensation for these contract faculty members is a major issue for UWOFA in this round of bargaining.
  • Did you know that Western has accumulated over half a billion dollars in operating surpluses over the last 6 years? All this while the university continues to impose budget cuts on faculties, which will inevitably result in expanded class sizes, job losses and strains on resources. Western is ranked 11th in the province in terms of average full-time faculty compensation and its compensation for contract faculty is similarly low. Low levels of compensation can mean higher rates of faculty attrition; some faculty will simply leave Western for better-paying jobs elsewhere. Fair compensation that keeps pace with the rate of inflation for all faculty members is another goal for us.

Job security for contract faculty and fair compensation for all faculty members can only improve the quality of your education at Western.

Q: What is UWOFA fighting for?

UWOFA is alarmed that Western has abandoned its core mission of high-quality teaching and research and failed to reinvest in its front line people.  We are fighting for job security for contract faculty and appropriate compensation for all faculty members.

Q: How will the strike affect me?

Classes will almost certainly be cancelled in the event of a strike. Your professors will not be coming on to campus for office hours and will likely not be available on email or on OWL. Although UWOFA regrets the very real disruption in your academic year that a strike may entail, all of this is done in the long-term interests of improving the quality of education at Western.

Q: What will it involve?

You will see pickets lines at university main entrances. These picket lines will not prevent access to the university grounds. Please feel free to stop and chat with professors on the picket lines. If you want, you can even join us!

Q: How long will it last?

The length of the possible strike will be determined by progress at the bargaining table. This necessarily involves both our Employer (UWO administration) and UWOFA.

Q: Who makes the decision about my exams and academic year?

All issues to do with academic accommodation for missed classes and exams will be determined by the administration. Please contact the president and provost directly.

Graduate students will most certainly have other unanswered questions.

  • I’m a TA – will I still receive my pay?

Most likely, but please check with your union, PSAC 610, for clarification.

  • If there is a strike, will graduate classes and supervisions continue?

No. According to the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS), graduate classes will be cancelled and supervision of graduate students by faculty members will be interrupted.

  • What happens if my thesis exam is postponed into the next semester?

If thesis exams are postponed into the next term as a result of a strike, students will not be required to pay tuition for that term.

  • Will I still receive my funding?

Yes. According to SGPS, graduate students will continue to receive their funding during a faculty strike. 

  • Will I still have access to my lab, office and library?

Yes.

  • What about the deadlines for my thesis progression? 

Student accommodations have been made during strikes at other Canadian universities for such things as grant deadlines and other program milestones. However, these questions can only be answered by the senior UWO administration, including SGPS, Deans and Associate Deans. We recommend you ask them directly.

Q: Is there anything I can do?

Tell the Administration that you are concerned about the erosion of quality of education at Western, and support UWOFA by going here to send an email to President Amit Chakma, Chair of the Board of Governors Paul Jenkins, and the Provost Andy Hrymak.

If you wish to express a more personal message or ask further questions, you can reach them at President Chakma: achakma [at] uwo [dot] ca, Paul Jenkins: pjenkin3 [at] uwo [dot] ca , Andy Hrymak: ahrymak [at] uwo [dot] ca

You may also want to contact your student leaders.

Q: How can I stay updated on the status of contract negotiations?

Check out uwofa.ca, and our Bargaining Bulletins: www.uwofa.ca/news/bargaining-bulletins-faculty

Facebook: UWOFA
Twitter: @UWOFA