Thousands of students at Vancouver Island University are understandably upset at the prospect of having their school-year disrupted by a strike.
Having paid good money to take post-secondary courses, students rightfully expect to be taught, without disruption, for the full semester.
But that’s the point of having the ability to strike during a labour dispute – the threat is intended to spur the employer (and employees) to reach an agreement without resorting to job action that would interrupt the delivery of products and services.
Yet, when the service being provided is education, at whatever level, the stakes are infinitely higher than in a conventional business environment. The clients – students – don’t have the option of taking their business elsewhere. Students expect to get what they paid for, but are caught in the middle of a labour dispute over which they have little or no control, other than to voice their concerns.
Those worries are not minor. Any strike longer than a week or two will have a serious impact on people’s futures.
With a Labour Relations Board mediator booking out after just one day, it’s clear both sides have their heels dug in.
With the stakes as high as they are for some 10,000 students, that’s absolutely the wrong position – and surprising from an institution of higher learning.
Better than anyone, the academics and administrators at a university should understand that this labour dispute, more than any other, should be approached with a willingness to compromise.
Until both sides accept that reality, students will be getting a sad and unfortunate education from the very institution normally looked to for more rational and reasonable lessons.