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Classes cancelled as profs take to the picket lines

By Archives April 1, 2008

With just weeks left in the winter semester, Concordia’s part-time teachers are on strike.
The Concordia Union of Part-time Faculty Association (CUPFA) began picketing on Concordia’s campuses Monday.
Roughly 20 classes will be cancelled this week and the number will increase week to week if both sides are unable to reach an agreement. Departments affected this week will be political science, cinema, English, contemporary dance, history, economics and finance.
After their first negotiation session last week, Maria Peluso, president of CUPFA admitted the two groups remain at loggerheads.
“Nothing much happened, I think. We worked on an agreement in principle that involves reserve courses, but we didn’t get really far.”
“In terms of salaries it’s not resolved yet, or in discussions,” she said, and added that the lack of offices for part-time teachers, increasing class sizes, no job benefits and the expansion of online courses, which could potentially take classes away from teachers, are issues that need to be addressed at the bargaining table.
University officials declined to comment on the ongoing discussions.
“I think what’s important for students to realize is, in regards to cancelled classes, that the university would be as flexible and accommodating as possible so that students shouldn’t be penalized. They shouldn’t be penalized at all,” said Christine Mota, director of Concordia media relations. She echoed the e-mail statement sent out by the university to all students last week that they must complete their work and go to class as usual.
“If the professor does not appear for the course, it is nonetheless the student’s responsibility to turn in any work due for the course to the department office responsible for the course immediately,” reads the e-mail.
Peluso announced in a press conference last Wednesday that part-time faculty members will be walking out of around a dozen departments in the weeks ahead – if a solution is not reached. The schedule of class cancellations was not yet available by press time.
Peluso assured that walkouts will take place on days with the fewest classes, but the union will up the ante should the administration “fail to respond.”
When asked how finals will be conducted if the strike were to last through the exam period, Peluso said, “We will assess the situation as we go along . . . If the university doesn’t come to its senses then we will play it by ear. There are a number of things we can do.”
In the worse case scenario, winter exams will be interrupted if negotiations continue through April.
“We’re not going to be submitting grades, [which] may have an impact on students graduating. We are not going to be [preparing] exams, grading them or anything like that. A strike means we’re not working,” she said.
“This has been a long time coming, we tried to do everything to avoid getting to this point. We’re at a point where we need this community to be aware of how uncooperative the university has been,” said Judith Grad, an applied human sciences professor picketing outside the EV building.
“We can disrupt this university. We don’t want to, but we will. [If] we’re not dealt with then there will be more of this,” said David Douglas, a film studies professor also on the picket line.
The Concordia Student Union, several of Quebec’s teacher’s unions and at least two of Concordia’s student faculty associations have sided with CUPFA’s job action.
Concordia’s 900 part-time faculty members teach 40 per cent of classes at the university. The main point of their strike is to attain wages equal to those of full-time staff at Concordia and their counterparts at other universities. The union has been without a contract since 2002.