Above, members of the Mount Allison Faculty Association man the picket line this morning after walking off the job. DOHERTY PHOTO
Members of the Mount Allison Faculty Association (MAFA) walked off the job early this morning after efforts to negotiate a deal between the group and the university failed.
Last week, MAFA set a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. today, stating they hoped the looming job action would convince the university administration to agree to their demands.
MAFA president Loralea Michaelis said negotiations continued over the weekend.
“We bargained late into the night attempting to resolve this deal. However, the administration has yet to move on proposals that are simply unacceptable to our membership,” said Michaelis.
Mount Allison University provost and vice-president academic and research Karen Grant said they were dispappointed over the strike action "and the impact it will have on our students".
“The university remains committed to achieving a collective agreement that maintains and supports the high quality academic experience Mount Allison is known for and that is sustainable.”
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.
Michaelis said last week the university administration was 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.
The university, in a statement last 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, had said the previous week that both parties seemed willing to work with the mediator at that point to try and work towards an agreement and that neither wanted a strike to happen.
Grant said the university had 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 was 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 were also 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 did 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.
All Mount Allison credit classes, including labs, tutorials, seminars, and correspondence courses, will be suspended until further notice. The University encourages all students to carry on with their assignments, readings, and other academic work as far as is possible.
All other student services, administrative buildings, and public facilities remain open and available to students including the University library, writing resource centre, The Meighen Centre, accessibility services, and academic mentors.