SACKVILLE, N.B. – On Jan. 13 and 14, 2014, academic staff at Mount Allison University voted overwhelmingly in favour of authorizing the Mount Allison Faculty Association (MAFA) to call a strike if necessary in an effort to reach a deal with the administration.
Of full-time faculty and librarians who voted, 86 per cent voted in favour of a strike; of part-time faculty who voted, 86 per cent also voted in favour. Turnout of eligible voters was high: 99 per cent of full-time and 88 per cent of part-time faculty voted.
“The strong result shows our members’ resolve to protect the academic mission of Mount Allison and its role in providing a supportive community for intellectual development and academic excellence,” said MAFA President Loralea Michaelis.
Salary, pension, and benefits remain areas of disagreement, but key differences concern workload and the control that faculty have over their own teaching and research, MAFA stated in a press release issued this morning.
MAFA contends that full-time faculty hiring at Mount Allison has not kept pace with rising student enrollments over the last decade, with the result that faculty are experiencing heavier workloads.
“Increased class sizes and gaps left in programs when faculty who retire or resign are not replaced have meant that faculty have to overwork to maintain the high levels of excellence for which Mount Allison is known,” according to Michaelis.
“Instead of seeking greater control over our work, the administration should be addressing these workload issues and investing resources in our ability to do our work well.”
University administration, however, argues that the proposals being offered are more than fair.
Enhancements to both salary and pension have been put on the table, according to the university’s negotiations website, which would provide salary increases of 1 per cent, 1.25 per cent, 1.5 per cent and 1.75 per cent over four years. As well, the university has also agreed to increase the employer contribution to the pension plan from 7.5 per cent of salary to 8 per cent in the first year.
The university has also proposed to expand the membership of the tenure and promotion committee, which would help reduce the workload for faculty members on that committee.
Another change proposed by the university is to require external assessments for all candidates for tenure and promotion, which is a normal part of the process at most universities.
The university is also suggesting the students should have a voice in the faculty evaluation process – using statistical results from student evaluations of teaching to be used as one part of the performance evaluation, tenure and promotion processes for faculty members.
MAFA stated in this morning's release that they hope the strike vote result prompts the administration to return to the bargaining table to resolve all outstanding matters.
“Our members are preparing to do what it takes to ensure protection for academic freedom and to secure adequate resources so that we can continue to provide the high quality of scholarship and teaching that our students expect and deserve,” said Michaelis.
Meanwhile, the Mount Allison Students’ Union (MASU) also issued a statement today, saying that it stands by its submission made to both Mount Allison University and MAFA on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013.
MASU vice-president, academic affairs, Ryan Harley said while "the MASU has the utmost respect for the collective bargaining process, and the fruits of the labour movement more generally, we firmly believe that no issue under negotiation ought to come at the cost of our membership’s ongoing, uninterrupted education.”
Harley further added that, as detailed in thier submission to both negotiating parties, MASU’s "priorities remain for our membership to receive the instruction time for which they have paid, receive credit for the coursework they have completed, and remain on track to graduate as expected.”
The MASU statement went on to explain that its membership is hopeful MAFA and the university will come to an agreement without strike action, adding they wish to remind both negotiating parties of the enormous stake their membership has in the outcome of negotiations.