Mount A administration says classes will resume Monday, both sides agree to talks over weekend

Scott Doherty
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Members of the Mount Allison Faculty Association are joined by students at the university and faculty from other institutions from across Canada last Friday in a solidarity rally. TOWER PHOTO

Some confusion remains as to whether classes will resume at Mount Allison University on Monday, although the university’s administration says it’s going to happen.

Karen Grant, provost and vice-president academic and research, Mount Allison University, called a press conference this afternoon at 1:30 p.m. to announce the chief negotiators for both the university and the Mount Allison Faculty Association (MAFA) would be meeting with Rick Merrill, assistant director of conciliation and mediation services for the province of New Brunswick, over the weekend to work out the details of the transition back to class.

“As an important starting point, both parties expect classes to resume on Monday, and they both expect to use binding arbitration to resolve outstanding issues.”

Later in the press conference she stated that classes would definitely resume Monday.

New Brunswick’s Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Jody Carr confirmed this afternoon that both sides would return to the bargaining table tomorrow with the assistance of the provincial mediator, although he stopped short of saying classes would indeed resume Monday.

“I am encouraged that both parties have agreed to return to the bargaining table tomorrow with the provincial mediator with the objective to end the dispute,” Carr said. “As a government, we respect the collective bargaining process. Our preference has always been that the parties sit down and work together to reach an agreement.

“Our priority is to protect the students' ability to finish their term with the least amount of disruption possible.

“We remain optimistic and hopeful that they will reach an agreement and that students can return to class.”

Confusion first arose late yesterday after the university’s administration and faculty association issued differing statements regarding the status of the strike by full- and part-time faculty at the local institution.

Leading up to this, nearly two days of negotiations under the direction of a provincially-appointed special outside mediator came to a halt yesterday afternoon.

Both the university’s administration and the Mount Allison Faculty Association (MAFA) issued subsequent statements, with the faculty association saying they were proposing voluntary binding arbitration to resolve the dispute, adding this proposal would see students returning to class as early as Monday.

“Although we did not get a deal, mediation was not a wasted effort.  Many issues were clarified as a result of the process.  We now have a solution to get back to work,” MAFA president Loralea Michaelis said yesterday.  “We look forward to a positive response from the administration to our proposal.”

Karen Grant, provost and vice-president academic and research, Mount Allison University, responded late last night, saying Mount Allison University welcomed the faculty association’s acceptance of voluntary binding arbitration, which she said the university had proposed on Friday, Feb. 7.

“This will end the strike and students will return to class on Monday, Feb. 17,” the statement continued. “We look forward to welcoming our students, faculty, and librarians back to campus on Monday.”

MAFA quickly issued a response last night declaring the university’s announcement the strike was at an end was false.

“The Mt. A university community was recently sent a communication from the administration declaring an end to the strike, claiming that MAFA had accepted its proposal for binding arbitration, and announcing the resumption of classes on Monday,” last night’s statement by MAFA said. “This is completely untrue. We have not yet concluded any agreement with the administration on our proposal for binding arbitration, the terms of which are very different from the proposal which the administration made last week.

“The administration cannot declare an end to the strike until these and other related matters have been resolved. In the meantime, MAFA remains on strike.”

MAFA also sent an open letter to Mount A students and their parents this morning.

“We have not yet concluded any agreement with the employer concerning the scope of binding arbitration and the terms under which the strike can be concluded. Without these agreements, there can be no end to the strike.

“There are different kinds of binding arbitration,” the letter continued. “The administration has proposed 'final offer selection', a form of binding arbitration in which each party presents a complete package of proposals and the arbitrator chooses between the two. It is a high risk, ”winner take all” form of arbitration. MAFA is proposing 'interest arbitration' instead, which is much narrower in scope and works through each unresolved issue on its own. Interest arbitration allows for a more balanced settlement, which is more favorable to reestablishing working relations following a labour dispute.”

During today’s press conference, Grant said the type of binding arbitration used would be one of the issues discussed over the weekend.

Although MAFA has yet to issue an official statement, several postings on their Twitter page indicate the open letter they issued this morning remains in effect and there is no guarantee classes will resume Monday.

Organizations: Mount Allison Faculty Association, Mount Allison University

Geographic location: New Brunswick

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