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UPEI faculty take to the picket line amid contract dispute


Members of the University of Prince Edward Island Faculty Association (UPEIFA) are on the picket line Monday after walking off the job when their strike deadline passed without a contract at Midnight.

Four to five shifts per day of 60 members are split among the university's three entrances.

The union is calling for more faculty and reduced workloads as well as more protections and better pay for part-time and contract instructors.

The university has offered to go to binding arbitration to end the dispute, but the head of UPEIFA’s negotiation team said that won’t resolve breakthrough issues, which significantly alter the workplace, like changing staffing levels.

“They’ll set that aside, and what they’ll focus on will be compensation,” said Margot Rejskind. “If this was just about salaries, we don’t need binding arbitration, we could work that out, but this is about much bigger principles and binding arbitration won’t solve those problems for us or for our students.”

A release from UPEI said it has made offers to the union through email, but union reps said the university has refused to return to the negotiating table on any of those proposals.

“What’s going to end the strike is if the employer meets with us to negotiate a settlement,” said Michael Arfken, UPEIFA president. “At this point, they’re refusing to meet with us, and so there’s not really much to be done until that happens.”

UPEI Faculty Association members and supporters walk a picket line in Charlottetown on March 20, 2023, on the first day of the faculty association's strike. (Jack Morse/CTV)

Students say they are concerned, with exams beginning in the middle of April. The UPEI Students’ Union (UPEISU) is calling for the two sides to come to an agreement.

"We are respectful of the fact that the faculty association has the right to strike, but, at the end of the day, we're here for students,” said Adam MacKenzie, UPEISU president. “We do want to see a speedy resolution and the least amount of disruption to student life as possible."

On the first day of the strike, neither the union nor the university seems to be budging, and that has students worried, particularly those looking to graduate this year or international students who must make travel plans for the end of the semester.

The lost time is hitting doubly hard after students already lost a week of class time during an extended break for the Canada Winter Games. Top Stories

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