A professor strike at the University of New Brunswick has left over 9,000 students out of the classroom this winter semester—but at what cost? According to those on the picket lines, all they need is the fairness and respect. Oh, and a 20 per cent wage increase, of course.
The strike comes after nearly ten months of failed negotiations between the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers and university administration. However, despite the rhetoric coming from association president Miriam Jones, the administration was not completely unreasonable during these discussions, as they have already proposed up to a 9.5 per cent pay increase over a four year period—including a 3.2 per cent increase within the first year.
Before the strike, Jones has stated that the starting salaries at other mid-sized Canadian universities, such as the staff here at Memorial University, get paid 20 per cent higher in similar roles. Thus, the association is demanding salaries that would be comparable with these universities. However, the fault in Jones’ argument, and others in the 90 per cent of the association who agreed to strike, is that they are taking advantage of what a great situation they already have. As a result, they have turned to making unreasonable demands, angering many students who are left wasting their time in pursuit of a post-secondary education.
Currently, over 60 per cent of faculty staff earn more than $100,000 a year, while the salary ceiling for an assistant professor standing at $60,948 and full time staff earning a minimum of $94,397. According to a recent publication, the salaries for faculty at UNB are ranked 31 in the country. These salaries out-rank some universities in the western provinces, where the cost of living, including real estate prices, cost of utilities and changes in the consumer price index, is substantially higher. As well, under the current offer from the administration, average salaries would be on par with some larger universities, such as Dalhousie University (Halifax).
It is unreasonable to believe that the university faculty deserves such a massive increase in purchasing power, which if granted, would be larger than some of the country’s top universities. This includes many institutes who consistently out-rank and perform them in many research and academic pursuits. The only thing the striking efforts of the association will successfully do is turn public opinion against their undeserving nature, while also encourage the government to step in and put in place much-needed back-to-work legislation.