Dentistry clinic would close if Dalhousie’s staff walk

A support staff strike, which may begin as soon as Thursday, will not affect classes for a vast majority of students, but the dentistry faculty will notice any ill effects.

By Ian Froese

Students in Dalhousie's dentistry faculty might be the most affected by a potential support staff strike. (Ian Froese photo)

Dalhousie University may have avoided a strike on Monday when members of its faculty association approved a tentative deal, but the potential for a different walkout may have dire consequences for some students.

The support staff strike, which may begin as soon as Thursday, will not affect classes for a vast majority of students, but the dentistry faculty will notice any ill effects. That’s because without clinical staff to work in the dispensary, the Dalhousie Dental Clinic, a training ground for budding dentists, will close its doors.

Dal spokesperson Charles Crosby said it’s an unfortunate possibility.

“In terms of student activities or class time, this strike wouldn’t affect them, but in terms of applied work, it would,” said Crosby.

“It’s one of those rare cases where the students would be affected by the strike.”

Aside from the practical experience it provides students, the closure could affect the thousands of patients the Dalhousie Dental Clinic cares for every year.

Fourth-year dentistry student Alison Nette, like her graduating classmates, completes most of her course work at the clinic in the last year of the program. She’s concerned with how a potential strike might affect her degree.

“We’re worried about what will happen. We have other commitments,” she said. “That’s what we’re dreading.”

Related Resources
Dalhousie Dental Clinic website
CBC news strike story from Mar. 19

Adding to her concern, Nette has a job arranged for June. She says she needs a diploma in hand to work her first shift.

“You have to have a diploma to get your licence, so if this affects that, I have a problem.”

The 800 plus staff with the Nova Scotia General Employees Union Local 77 that are a legal position to strike beginning on Thursday work in such disciplines as administration, Information Technology and in the library.

Andrew McLeod, a first-year dental student, expects his clinical work to be affected to some degree.

“If the staff aren’t there to give students the necessary materials they need to do the dental work they need to do, then you have some issues there,” he said.

Related audio
Dental – Andrew McLeod
First-year dental student Andrew McLeod discusses what a possible support staff strike would affect him and the rest of his faculty.

McLeod said he heard more discussions amongst his classmates when there was still the possibility of simultaneous strikes involving the DFA and NSGEU.

The union members will vote Wednesday on either a tentative deal or the university’s last offer, which was sent to the union late last week.