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University of Prince Edward Island, faculty union set to begin mediation Saturday amid strike

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The University of Prince Edward Island and its faculty union are set to meet Saturday for the first of five days of mediated talks.

This could be the first step to a settlement, as the strike drags into its 19th day.

It’s quiet on the UPEI campus this Good Friday, a stark contrast to the picketing that’s been going on here for three weeks.

The province appointed mediator Michelle Flaherty this week. She's mediated on this dispute before and was the preferred choice of both the University and the union.

There's now some optimism among students.

“I feel good about that,” said Sebastian Barrington, a first-year statistics student. “Hopefully they can make the decision soon because I don’t want to miss any more than I have to.”

Students have felt the brunt of the strike, losing weeks of class time. Concerns still remain about how the end of the year and exams will go, and if in fact mediation will bring the strike to an end.

“I feel like that’s good. Try to find the middle. Try to find some middle ground where you guys can agree on something,” said Pranav Bangla, a second year computer science student. “Because it is getting to the point where I feel like enough is enough, basically, and we need to fix something right away.”

Mediation is by no means a guarantee the strike will end, but it will be the first time during the strike the two sides have met.

“But keep this in mind: we haven’t reached a deal yet. And if we’re not there, then we remain on strike,” said Michael Arfken, UPEI Faculty Association President. “So we’re willing to work with the employer to get there, but at the end of the day, if we can’t get there, then we’re going to remain on strike.”

In order to end the strike, Arfken said the two sides will need to reach a tentative deal.

It’s only after that students will learn what's happening with the end of the semester, exams, and how much tuition they will get back.

Meetings have been scheduled for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. The mediator is booked for another two days, yet to be scheduled.

If the five days end without a contract, it’s not clear what will happen, but Premier Dennis King has not ruled out back-to-work legislation.

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