MAFA sets strike deadline for Monday

Tribune-Post Staff
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Negotiations continue between university, professors this week

The Mount Allison Faculty Association has set Jan. 27 as a strike deadline. DOHERTY PHOTO

SACKVILLE, N.B. – Negotiations between Mount Allison University and its faculty got back under way this week but strike action appears to be imminent as efforts to reach a deal continue to go nowhere.

The negotiating teams for both the administration and the faculty association met with the provincially-appointed mediation officer on Monday to resume the collective bargaining process and will meet again this coming Friday. But Monday’s session wasn’t as productive as hoped.

And now the Mount Allison Faculty Association (MAFA) has set a strike deadline for 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Jan 27 in it latest attempt to resolve its dispute with the administration.

“At our last session at the negotiating table, it became clear that our positions remain far apart,” said MAFA president Loralea Michaelis.

Michaelis said the administration is persisting with proposals that “undermine collegial governance and increase administrative control over teaching and research.”

While salaries, pensions and benefits for full-time as well as part-time members are areas of concern among the terms of their new collective agreement, Michaelis said “there are a combination of issues” that are at the heart of the current dispute.

The association has identified workload and lack of support for the “core academic mission” of the university as the key issues they are fighting for – issues which Michaelis said the administration is failing to address in their proposals.

“We’re certainly flexible and willing to work with the administration . . . but we’re not willing to back down on the core issues of academic control and freedom.”

During a strike vote that was held on Jan. 13 and 14, part-time and full-time faculty and librarians voted 86 per cent in favour of calling a strike if necessary. 

“We had hoped that this evidence of member resolve would persuade the administration to take our concerns seriously. It seems to have made little difference,” said Michaelis.

She said while MAFA is obviously concerned about the impact on students should a strike occur, she stressed that the issues at the heart of the dispute are already having an adverse effect on students  – such as a lack of resources in the classroom and the added workload on faculty.

“What’s happening to us is also happening to students . . . they have a stake in this too,” said Michaelis. “It will be difficult to withdraw from our classrooms and labs. But we are committed to protecting our students’ learning conditions.”

“The issues we’re fighting directly relates to the university’s well being.”

The university, in a statement Tuesday upon hearing of the news of the strike deadline, said it was disappointed in this latest development but “remains committed to working to achieve a negotiated settlement” in its coming session with the mediator on Friday.

Karen Grant, vice-president of academic and research at the university, said last week that both parties seemed willing to work with the mediator to try and work towards an agreement and that neither wanted a strike to happen.

“We’re certainly hopeful we can find a resolution and avoid a disruption of classes,” she said.

Grant said the university has put forward a “set of key proposals” in its contract offer – not only increases to salary and pension but also changes she says will help improve efficiencies and streamline the process by which tenures, promotions and sabbaticals are granted.

“The kinds of changes we are proposing do not make eligibility more difficult or make it more stringent to get sabbatical. They are process changes that will reduce (faculty) workload,” she said.

Grant said the university is also recommending the students 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.

Enhancements to both salary and pension have also been put on the table, 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 as a slight increase to the employer contribution to the pension plan.

Michaelis said MAFA does not plan to divulge the details of what they are asking for in their collective agreement and was disappointed in the university for going public with their proposals while talks are still ongoing.

“It’s not a very productive way of bargaining,” said Michaelis. “Because once a position has been made public, it becomes much more difficult to retreat from that position.”

The association has posted a series of FAQs on its negotiations website at mafanegotiations.ca to address specific student questions and concerns. The website also has additional information about the main issues under negotiation.

Mount A also posts regular updates on the status of negotiations at www.mta.ca/negotiations.

MAFA represents 154 full-time and 56 part-time faculty and librarians, and has been in negotiations since early June 2013.

Organizations: Mount Allison Faculty Association, Mount Allison University

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