Academic staff at Mount A unable to reach agreement with university, in position to call strike vote

Tribune-Post Staff
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The Mount Allison Faculty Association will be holding a strike vote next Monday and Tuesday.

SACKVILLE, N.B. – The Mount Allison Faculty Association, in the midst of labour negotiations with the university, is pleased the provincial government has decided not to appoint a conciliation board to help both sides come to an agreement.

“We are very pleased with the news.  This marks a turning point for labour relations in New Brunswick,” said MAFA president Loralea Michaelis after hearing the news last month that the Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Jody Carr had issued a decision not to appoint a board in the negotiations.

Michaelis said also last month, the minister decided not to appoint a conciliation board in negotiations between the University of New Brunswick and its academic staff union.

Conciliation boards are allowed under New Brunswick labour legislation but were rarely used until the previous government, the Liberals under Premier Shawn Graham, began appointing conciliation boards in the university sector. Conciliation boards are controversial because they can prolong negotiations, said Michaelis, and can also be expensive for both parties, as well as the government.

“We firmly believe that the best agreements are reached through free and unconstrained collective bargaining,” she said.

“We applaud the Alward government for reconsidering what was beginning to look like a new policy on collective bargaining in the university sector. We would like to offer particular thanks to our provincial organization, the Federation of New Brunswick Faculty Associations, for their hard work in making the case for free collective bargaining.”

The Mount Allison Faculty Association has been negotiating with Mount Allison University since June and filed for conciliation on August 8. Despite numerous sessions at the table, with the assistance of a conciliator, the parties have been unable to reach an agreement. 

The conciliator filed her report on Dec. 9. Now that the minister has decided not to appoint a conciliation board, a countdown begins – as of Dec. 29, MAFA was in a legal position to call a strike vote and the employer was in a legal position to impose a lockout.

However, both sides agreed before the holidays to put the possibility of any labour action on hold until early January and the minister has appointed a mediator to assist the parties through the next stage of the process.

“We look forward to continuing negotiations with the employer in the New Year,” said Michaelis. “There are some very serious issues yet to resolve. We are committed to maintaining Mount Allison as one of Canada’s leading undergraduate universities and we are confident that the administration will recognize the importance of faculty and librarians to this mission.”

MAFA represents 160 full-time and 50 part-time academic staff. Both full-time and part-time collective agreements expired on June 30, 2013.

UPDATE: Michaelis reported yesterday that MAFA will be holding a strike vote next Monday and Tuesday (Jan. 13-14). If supported by a majority, this will allow the executive to call a strike if deemed necessary. Further updates will be posted on MAFA’s negotiation website at www.mafanegotiations.ca.

Organizations: Mount Allison Faculty Association, University of New Brunswick, Federation of New Brunswick Faculty Associations Mount Allison University

Geographic location: New Brunswick, Canada

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