No women on collective bargaining teams

Mount Allison Faculty Association’s (MAFA) contracts with its Employer expired on June 30, 2016. MAFA and its Employer are now at the bargaining table, with no women on either side. In collective bargaining negotiations, the University administration is referred to as the Employer.

Collective bargaining is a standard process that takes place between the Employer and the faculty union to negotiate the terms and conditions of their collective agreement. The collective agreements, both full-time and part-time, are written contracts between the Employer and the faculty union. Negotiations begin 90 to 30 days before the expiration of the current collective agreement and work to renew or revise its terms and conditions. The process is required by the Industrial Relations Act of New Brunswick and occurs every three years.

The last time the collective agreement expired, the negotiations led to a three-week faculty strike. However, strike is not a necessary result of collecting bargaining.

The Employer is represented by Hans vanderLeest, chief negotiator and former dean of arts, Ron Sutherland, director of human resources and Chris Milner, university budget manager. The MAFA bargaining team consists of Stephen Law, chief negotiator and head of the economics department, Jeff Lilburn, public services librarian, Geoff Martin, MAFA professional officer, and Andrew Wilson, professor of religious studies.

Director of Marketing and Communications Robert Hiscock said that Mount Allison’s bargaining team is selected by the senior administration. He said the senior administration selects members based on either their role in the university or their particular knowledge of the contract and its implications.

Hiscock said the intent was not to exclude women from the negotiation process. “It is just that at this stage, those are the people in those roles,” he said.

Hiscock said that the bargaining team is communicating and working with the senior administration, which includes Kim Meade, VP international and student affairs, and Gloria Jollymore, VP university advancement.

Hiscock said that creating a bargaining team was not related to gender, but instead to finding the most capable person with applicable knowledge of the process.

Hiscock also said that “what you need in a process is people who understand the process, understand the content and understand the university system. Women are just as able as men to do that, clearly.”

Irwin noted that MAFA is trying to represent different kinds of constituencies, adding that the MAFA executive puts out an open call to their members to volunteer for bargaining positions.

“When the MAFA executive create the team, they strive for representation across departments, for both full-time and part-time, for both experienced and inexperienced members and for a gender balance,” he said.

Irwin said that a number of women expressed interest in joining the bargaining team but could not participate due to sabbaticals or new appointments.

“Unfortunately with those kinds of constraints, you often can’t satisfy all of them,” he said.

There have been women on past bargaining teams, including during the 2013-2014 negotiations.

According to Irwin, when MAFA realized that there were no women on the bargaining team, they “made certain the collective bargaining committee had women on the team.” The committee does not participate in the negotiation meetings, but they influence MAFA’s collective bargaining planning and decisions.

On Oct. 17, MAFA revealed in their press release that 87 per cent of MAFA members voted in favour of a motion to support their negotiating team and that if necessary, members would support strike action.

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