CUPE Local 4879 at Thompson Rivers University gave 72 hours strike notice on Oct. 1, in conjunction with other CUPE unions. This union, which represents support staff (anyone who doesn’t teach), was in a legal position to strike Thursday at 10 a.m.
I do not intend to debate the merits of their right to strike. However, after this news broke on campus, many of my professors vowed to cancel class because they won’t cross picket lines.
Although it’s admirable that these professors have a sense of kinship with CUPE 4879, it leads me to ask a fairly serious question. If the teachers cancel class because they will not cross the picket line, does that not basically amount to an illegal walkout on their part? It isn’t illegal to cross a picket line (regardless of your moral stance on it), and these university teachers have not conducted a vote on job action, so on what legal grounds can they withdraw their services and cancel class?
Further still, if this was deemed to be an illegal walkout, would they be opening themselves to legal action? Could an enterprising student or the university pursue damages against them?
Editor’s note: Language in the faculty association’s collective agreement with TRU allows professors to respect the legal picket lines of other unions.