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The faculty association and the MUN administration reach a preliminary agreement

Members of the Memorial University of Newfoundland faculty association gathered on Friday as the union neared the end of its second week of strikes.  (Curtis Hicks/CBC - photo credit)

Members of the Memorial University of Newfoundland faculty association gathered on Friday as the union neared the end of its second week of strikes. (Curtis Hicks/CBC – photo credit)

Curtis Hicks/CBC

Curtis Hicks/CBC

The faculty association and the administration of Memorial University have reached a tentative agreement after a nearly two-week strike.

Late Friday afternoon, faculty association president Ash Hossain told CBC News that they had reached an agreement with the university.

In a press release from MUN early Thursday evening, Interim Provost and Academic Vice President Neil Bose said, “Overall, the contract provides a generous package of enhancements to support our valued faculty colleagues while preserving the long-term viability of Memorial University.”

MUN says next steps include ratification by the Board of Regents and the faculty association. The university said it will not share the terms of the agreement while the ratification process is underway, but the details, including a possible timetable for returning to classes, will be communicated directly to students once they become available.

At a press conference Friday night, university president Vianne Timmons said – for the first time since the strike began – that both sides will seek a vote on the agreement early next week.

“We need to negotiate a return-to-campus protocol with the faculty union, with MUNFA, and they’re meeting on Sunday to finalize that,” she said.

“The protocol agreement will decide exactly when everyone gets back to work and that is the process.”

Timmons said MUN is reviewing all options regarding tuition reimbursement for missed time and academic amnesty. A Senate meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.

Terry Roberts/CBC

Terry Roberts/CBC

Riley Byrne, a MUN business student, attended Friday night’s press conference to hear the news for himself.

Byrne said students have felt forgotten by the ordeal so far, but he is glad the strike may be coming to an end.

“It’s like the teachers and administration are parents fighting a divorce settlement and the students, we’re being used as bargaining chips for the couple of weeks,” he said.

“I just want to know more about what’s going on with the students and hopefully we’ll get some answers.”

Big rally

Earlier Friday, members of the Memorial University of Newfoundland faculty association neared the end of their second week on Friday’s picket line with a large rally on the steps of the Arts and Administration Building on the St. John’s campus.

The rally included a push from other faculty unions across the country, as members from universities in British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island traveled to St. John’s to show solidarity with MUN’s striking faculty.

Some brought donation checks. “We’re going to win” chants echoed across campus.

“Thousands of faculty members across the country are listening to what’s happening in this room,” said Ted Binnema, representative of the University of Northern British Columbia’s faculty association.

Curtis Hicks/CBC

Curtis Hicks/CBC

Negotiations continued during the rally as they grew outside campus doors, with representatives from other unions joining the effort, including the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees and the Memorial University of Newfoundland Faculty Association .

Lisa Moores, associate professor of psychology at MUN, said the faculty association is in a “different place” than it was two weeks ago.

‚ÄúThis is not the same university as it used to be. We’re two weeks old and we’re cold, but we’re stronger than ever,” said Moores.

The faculty council walked out on January 30 after negotiations for a new contract with the administration collapsed.

On Thursday, Hossain said there had been positive signs from negotiation talks throughout the week, but added that he thought the strike could continue for another two weeks, with the start of the university’s week-long winter break on February 20 on the horizon .

The faculty association argued for three priority issues to be part of its latest deal: improved job security for temporary workers with a clear path to permanent employment for those who have been with MUN for a long time, post-retirement health benefits and collegial leadership, as defined in the collective agreement .

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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