The strike and lockout at the University of Lethbridge technically concluded at midnight on Tuesday, but the consequences of the almost six-week work stoppage are influencing how the rest of the semester will unfold.

Students will return to class on Wednesday morning after being absent since February 10.

What was the purpose of extending the semester?

The University of Lethbridge stated Tuesday afternoon that the semester’s last day will now be May 5, nearly two weeks later than the original completion date of April 20.

The university’s general faculties council, which consists of academics, students, and administrators, accepted the modification.

“We urged hard this entire time that the semester not be prolonged if at all possible,” said Holly Kletke, president of the University of Lethbridge Students’ Union (ULSU).

“We (truly) attempted to convey that. Unfortunately, it was presented to us that doing so was not feasible due to the students that needed to graduate and finish the semester.”

Kletke noted that the university has devised “creative contingency arrangements” for students who are unable to attend lessons owing to the prolongation.

Any classes that were given online previous to the strike will be available for the remainder of the semester.

Will students be refunded their money?

The school also offers a variety of financial incentives, including a 20% tuition credit for continuing students and an equivalent refund for graduating students, as well as a 25% discount in sport and leisure services fees.

It is also forgiving interest on student accounts accumulated during the strike, as well as semester extension on-campus living expenses for resident students beyond the original April 21, 2022 deadline.

Students who have parking permits will be reimbursed for two months of parking expenses, and those who have monies left on their meal plan will be given credit for the autumn 2022 semester.

“Overall, we’re pleased to see that those budgetary adjustments are being made,” Kletke added.

She further stated that the ULSU is available to assist students in completing their semesters effectively.

“We’re rolling up our sleeves and getting ready to fight for students.”

Reaching a collective bargaining agreement

The new agreement, according to Dan O’Donnell, president of the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA), resulted in quite significant increases in areas such as fairness and inclusiveness.

A March 18 mediator’s report proposed a 1.25 percent rise for members in April 2023, followed by a 1.5 percent increase in December 2023, as well as improvements to minimum salary and benefits.

He believes the strike and lockout should not have lasted as long as they did.

“Only at the University of Lethbridge did it take six weeks, five of which they refused to speak, to reach an agreement that is almost indistinguishable from the accords at Mount Royal and the University of Alberta.”

Global News requested an interview with the university, but it was not granted.

“Our new collective bargaining agreement with ULFA is a critical first step.” It provides fair and reasonable wages and benefits to our workers while providing access to high-quality education and preserving the university’s long-term survival,” the institution said in an emailed statement.

“The university’s future is bright, and we are excited about the prospects that lie ahead.”

Is it possible to mend the relationship?

The University of Louisiana then thanked everyone for their patience and understanding over the previous few weeks.

“We recognise that the previous few weeks have been difficult, and we thank everyone in the university community for their patience and understanding,” the U of L said.

“We recognise that relationships with faculty members were damaged during the strike and are dedicated to healing them over time.”

Kletke feels that regaining confidence on both sides would need a collaborative effort, but he remains optimistic.

“I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to reestablish the wonderful campus community that we once had, and I’m certain that we’ll be able to bounce back,” she added.

However, O’Donnell is sceptical that it will be so simple, given the impact of the labour conflict on future enrolment, grant money, and other factors.

“It’s going to be a very difficult effort to attempt to restore the damage,” O’Donnell said, “and the harm isn’t six weeks old; it’s many years old.”

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