Mount Allison faculty hit picket lines

Katie
Katie Tower
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Mount Allison faculty brave the elements on day two of the strike yesterday morning, when temperatures dipped well below freezing. Members of Mount A’s faculty association, which includes professors and librarians, walked off the job Monday after last-minute negotiations over the weekend failed to result in a satifactory agreement.  TOWER PHOTO

SACKVILLE, N.B. – Instead of heading to class Monday morning, Mount Allison professors headed to the picket line.

After three days of intensive, eleventh-hour negotiations over the weekend, members of Mount Allison’s Faculty Association (MAFA), which includes full-and-part-time professors and librarians, failed to reach an agreement with the university and walked off the job early Monday.

“We bargained late into the night attempting to resolve this deal,” said MAFA president Loralea Michaelis “However, the administration has yet to move on proposals that are simply unacceptable to our membership.”

Classes, labs and tutorials have been suspended until further notice but “everything else is business as usual,” said Karen Grant, Mount A’s vice-president of academic and research.

“We’re still continuing to provide everything we normally provide,” she said, noting that all residences, the dining hall, the student centre, library and athletic facilities remain open.

The university is encouraging all students to carry on with their assignments, readings, and other academic work as far as is possible. Grant said students are being offered support through student life services – such as peer tutoring, study tips and career planning activities to get them through this period and “keep them focused on their studies.”

“We’re trying to make sure our students are well taken care of,” she said.

“That’s our main goal right now.”

Grant said she hopes both sides will return to the negotiating table quickly so students are not adversely affected.

“We are disappointed in this development and the impact it will have on our students,” said Grant.

Michaelis said MAFA is also disappointed the months of negotiations have come down to this but the faculty is fighting for “the future of the academic mission at Mount Allison.”

The faculty association, which represents 154 full-time and 56-part-time faculty and librarians, says the main unresolved issues in the dispute are: administrative control over teaching and research, workload, equitable pay and pensions.

 

 

Michaelis said, in particular, the administration is proposing “major changes” to the collective agreement that would increase administrative control over teaching, “to regulate us more closely.”

She explained that although professors are employees of the university, they are also “independent professionals who are practicing disciplines not anchored at Mount Allison,” and so academic freedom is a vital part of that professional practice.

“We’re accountable to our profession. We’ll do a good job because we’ve been trained to do a good job,” said Michaelis, pointing out that close supervision and regulation can actually impede the teaching and research being done at the university.

She said past collective agreements have always ensured faculty has that academic freedom but the set of proposals that have come to the table this time around are threatening that.

So MAFA is “doing what we need to do right now to protect those rights,” said Michaelis.

Grant argued that the university has not put forward any proposals that would restrict, inhibit or compromise academic freedom or the control of individuals’ teaching or research in any way.

She said the university tabled three different proposals over the weekend in an effort to reach a new collective agreement. The faculty association rejected all three offers.

So now that the strike has gotten under way, both sides will have to “take a look and see what the next steps are,” said Grant.

She said the administration wants to work out a deal but has no plans to compromise on the “value positions” that have guided them through the negotiations to date.

“The university is committed to achieving a collective agreement that maintains and supports the high-quality academic experience Mount Allison is known for and that is sustainable, and is consistent with a student-centered approach.”

Michaelis said MAFA is “always ready to negotiate” but has no reason to believe at this point that it will happen anytime soon.

She said faculty understands that a strike creates a challenging situation for students and will do what they can to get back to their classrooms, labs and desks as soon as possible. But MAFA is taking the issues that have been raised in these negotiations seriously.

“For all of us, this is an unwelcome interruption. But we hope students will take into account that faculty on the picket lines have taken a principled stand . . . the stakes are high,” she said.

Melissa O’Rourke, president of the student union at Mount A, said MASU is putting their efforts right now into ensuring students have all the information they need to deal with the situation as the strike enters its first week.

“We’re doing our best to answer the questions they have, to make sure students are kept in the loop,” said O’Rourke.

She said it’s too early to tell how students will be impacted by the strike so no one is pushing the panic button just yet.

“A disruption of classes is not ideal . . . no one ever wants a strike,” said O’Rourke. “But we really don’t know what’s going to happen at this point.”

Although the student union has decided to remain neutral in this dispute, it does support an agreement between both parties and will continue to pressure them to “get back to the table” to reach a solution as quick as possible, she said.

“We’ll be pushing for this to be resolved,” said O’Rourke.

 

The faculty association has posted a series of FAQs on its negotiations website at mafanegotiations.ca to address specific questions and concerns. Mount A also posts regular updates on the status of negotiations at www.mta.ca/negotiations.

Organizations: Faculty Association

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments