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Concordia University of Edmonton faculty form picket line at Magrath Campus

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Faculty members at Concordia University of Edmonton went on strike Tuesday morning, after their union’s 9 a.m. deadline expired without a deal.

The Concordia University of Edmonton Faculty Association formed their picket line in front of the Magrath Mansion.

"Unfortunately, we have not been able to come to an agreement and we are very far apart on a number of issues,” association president Glynis Price told reporters.

"The university itself has posted around $20 million in surpluses over the last two years and no one's really sure quite where all of that has gone to. It hasn't gone to the students, it's certainly not going to the faculty."

Bargaining began in the late spring of 2021 but stalled in the back end of the year. The association issued a strike notice on Dec. 22 barring a deal being made.

One "sticking point" is a discipline article Price says enables the university to dismiss faculty without just cause.

She also said Concordia University of Edmonton's employees like librarians and lab instructors have among the highest workloads across the country, but that they and their faculty colleagues are among the lowest paid in Canada.

The faculty association believes the university can afford to meet members' demands, having recorded surpluses over $7 million the previous two years and spent $1.75 million to acquire Magrath Mansion.

"This is a beautiful piece of property, I'm not going to lie. It's a gem of the Highlands, but you can't wear your shoes inside, the rooms are very small… It also is not a particularly accessible building, which makes it also questionable for a university that's all about inclusivity," Price commented.

The association represents 82 full-time professors, librarians, placement coordinators and lab instructors. More than 95 per cent of members voted on taking job action, with 90 per cent in favour.

An unknown number of students supportive of the association's goals make up a group called the Students Supporting CUE Faculty Association, some of whom joined the picket line Tuesday morning.

Founder Ashley Callahan said administration did a poor job communicating to the student body there wouldn't be professors to teach when classes launched virtually on Wednesday.

New student orientation was scheduled to start Tuesday.

"Just [from] the number of people we had messaging us last night to ask if this truly meant that classes were cancelled, I would definitely say there were people logging on today expecting to start their term as normal and were left with an empty Zoom room," Callahan said.

CTV News Edmonton has asked administration for updated comment.

When the faculty association sent formal notice of a strike in December, the university's bargaining team told CTV News Edmonton it was still "hopeful we can reach a fair and equitable agreement that maintains stability for our students" and promised to remain a constructive player at the bargaining table.

Price said she and her peers were prepared to spend the week outside in -20 C temperatures.

"Warm spirits on the line. Lots of hot paws, warm drinks, and possibly some interpretive dance will keep us warm over the course of the week. If it goes on longer than that, our members are ready for that."

"Obviously, it's very stressful," Callahan said. "But we know that ultimately what's happening to the faculty association is a representation of what will happen to everyone in the work field."