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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Strike update: Day 02 - update 05

Interview with Dan O’Connor, picket captain.
Dan O’Connor, picket captain, and professor of Sociology and Anthropology.

By Ryan Rogers
Lance Editor in Chief

WINDSOR (The Lance) - - A major rally is expected in the WUFA strike which will bring in pickets from all across Canada in show of support for the faculty association’s stance for “quality education.”

Dan O’Connor, picket captain and professor of sociology and anthropology, said “Tomorrow there will be a big rally with a lot of the unions from around Canada coming to support us. We’ll have some flying pickets coming in and different representations from all the different unions and all the different universities across Canada, and members from the Canadian Association of University Teachers and that’s where they’ll present us with our $1 million cheque to help us stay on strike if we need to.”

“None of us want to be on strike,” he was quick to add. “None of us want to be out here. We’re hoping that we’ll get a quick resolution. And we think that the more support we show early on, the faster this will get resolved,” said O’Connor.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) was brought into the equation when an email from University of Windsor Provost Neil Gold was sent to the faculty association. It outlined the procedures for faculty members during a strike, and what actions should be taken if a union member was interested in crossing the picket line and returning to work.

“Yes, everybody received Neil Gold’s letter,” said O’Connor, “and CAUT’s response.” CAUT was made aware of the email when it mentioned that any professor interested in getting a grant request signed by their dean would have to fill out a “Notification of Intention to Continue All Normal Duties In the Event of a WUFA strike” form.

Jim Turk, the executive director of the CAUT has commented, “I am speechless that any university would, in a short-term dispute over a collective agreement, threaten the long-term future of the faculty and of the university by blocking new research grant applications.” Turk has threatened a motion of censure against the University of Windsor at the upcoming CAUT council meeting.

Faculty has refused to cross picket lines, and cannot agree to these terms if they wish to continue to apply for grants. “We wouldn’t enter university property [while on strike] ‘cause that would mean crossing the lines,” said O’Connor.

The picket captain said that some people are supporting the WUFA’s efforts.
“We have incredible support from the community. I think the community knows that the university is an important institution in this community. A lot of manufacturing going on in this community, but we also have a big university, and a major university, and a first-class university, and we want to make sure it maintains its first-class status,” said O’Connor.

In particular, a group of students rallied at 2 p.m. yesterday to show their allegiance to the faculty. “It was very good,” said O’Connor. “We were very impressed by that. We think there was about 300 students. Quite a good showing, we were really happy to see support from our other unions and the campus.”

Yet some workers have opted to cross the picket lines despite the strike.
Construction at the St. Denis Centre and the new medical building are continuing as scheduled, despite the demonstrators on the sidewalks. O’Connor arrived an hour early for the 7 o’clock shift, to lend support to picketers by the St. Denis Centre.

“We came in a six o’clock. We’re doing about five hour shifts because we have to support some of the people down at the St. Denis Centre. The construction that’s going down there, most unions will honour a line if there’s a line, so we try to make sure there are lines up.”

As for the medical building construction, he says that WUFA is attempting to make their point to the workers. “We’re engaged in on-going negotiations with the unions that are at work in the medical building and the other unions that are at work at the St. Denis Centre trying to work out some kind of deal between the two unions. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll be able to have enough union presence to make people think twice about crossing the lines.”


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