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Frustrated Capilano University students petition to end strike

About 4,300 students have had classes at CapU cancelled during the summer semester
Capilano University students Katerina Derbas (left) and Layne North are frustrated at how a strike by support workers at CapU has impacted classes. Derbas is one of the students who started an online petition urging an end to the strike. | Paul McGrath / North Shore News

More than 500 students at Capilano University have signed an online petition urging the university and unionized support staff to end a labour dispute, which has shut down classes at North Vancouver and Sechelt campuses for the past three weeks.

About 4,300 students at CapU have had classes cancelled and no access to online support from professors since striking support staff, including those working in IT, childcare and maintenance, set up picket lines June 6.

Members of the Capilano Faculty Association, which represents teaching staff, have refused to cross the picket lines or respond to emails from students.

Third-year psychology student Katerina Derbas is one of those behind the petition urging the two sides to set aside their differences.

Since the strike began, “everything was left in limbo,” said Derbas.

Derbas said she signed up for four summer courses and paid about $3,000 for tuition and textbooks, but later dropped two classes when she heard of a probable strike.

Derbas said the students most impacted are those who are supposed to graduate at the end of the summer semester or are starting graduate programs that depend on them finishing summer courses first.

Students were told they could continue to follow their course outlines and complete assignments but “nobody’s looking at them or providing feedback,” she said.

With the official wrap-up of the semester last Friday, students have been given the options of a refund with no course credit, a course credit that won’t affect a student’s grade point average, or an option of submitting assignments and having them marked at some point in the future.

But students don’t know who would mark those assignments, or when, said Derbas.

Under the circumstances, most students she’s spoken to have opted to get a course credit without a grade, she said.

Layne North is another CapU student unimpressed with the way the strike has unfolded.

Communication from the university has been minimal and one-way, he said.

North said the university could have given students a better idea of whether they expected the strike to last days or weeks in the beginning, for instance.

The university and workers represented by MoveUp have already agreed on a 12-13 per cent wage increase over a three-year term, as mandated by the province for public sector workers. At issue in the labour dispute is whether to include language about remote work in the union’s contract.

North blamed the union for the strike, saying even before the pickets went up “employees had received the option to work from home as much as would be feasible.”

Most recently, the university's negotiators thought a deal was close on an appeal mechanism for remote work arrangements outside of the contract. Since then, however, the union has asked that its workers also receive back pay for their time on strike, according to CapU.

The North Shore News requested a comment from MoveUp local 378, the union representing striking support workers, but was told there was no update to report.

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