Administration declares ‘no deal,’ calls for back to work legislation

Mount Allison’s administration said negotiations “failed to produce an agreement,” as the third week of the faculty strike draws to a close.

The announcement was posted to the university’s negotiations page around 1 pm Thursday, and a link was posted on Twitter. It said faculty and administration had again been unable to reach an agreement on a new contract.

Now, the university has called for back-to-work legislation.

“While the ideal solution would have been to reach an agreement at the table, with all bargaining options exhausted, back-to-work legislation is the only remaining solution that will ensure a return to class for students,” read part of the update on the university’s negotiations update web page.

The university also continued its push to refer the contract negotiations to binding arbitration. This would end the strike immediately, but neither faculty nor administration would have the power to reject an unfavourable agreement.

Administration will ask the University Senate to reschedule the term and “protect the academic year” once the strike is over.

The faculty union has insisted it wants to reach an agreement at the bargaining table, but the Mount Allison Faculty Association’s president, Loralea Michaelis, did not divulge how the strikers would respond.

“We’re all considering next steps,” Michaelis said of the union she heads, declining to comment further because she was uncertain of the terms of the media blackout imposed on today’s negotations.

She said MAFA would respond to the negotiations’ break-down once the union’s leadership could consult its members.

The students’ union condemned the breakdown at the bargaining table.

“I am extremely disappointed,” said Ryan Harley, vice-president academic for the Mount Allison Students’ Union. “The students’ union and the students have been extremely accommodating and respectful of the collective bargaining process, but it is clear … I mean, it has come to a standstill before, but in a lot of ways, this was the final straw.”

Harley said that the students’ union was preparing to ask the province for further intervention in the collective bargaining process at Mt. A to get students back to class. Such intervention could include involuntary arbitration or back-to-work legislation.

“The students’ union openly supported the faculty’s ask for a special mediator. We, like them, truly believed in the special mediator’s expertise and qualifications to resolve any outstanding issues, but today’s events clearly indicate that this hasn’t been the case, and in terms of the next logical step, I don’t see any other alternatives.”

On Twitter, where administration’s tweet had received seventy-nine retweets in its first hour, student reactions to the announcement ranged from disappointment and disbelief to outrage.

The provincial government was also “extremely disappointed” by the news that negotiations had stalled.

“On Feb. 12 and 13, we all relied on both parties to return to the bargaining table and reach an agreement with the assistance of a special mediator,” Jody Carr, minister of post-secondary education, training, and labour, said in a press release Thursday afternoon. “Our preference has always been for an agreement to be reached by both parties working together at the bargaining table. I am extremely disappointed that they were unable to achieve this to this point.”

The strike has been ongoing since Jan. 27.

On Monday, Carr ordered the sides to resume negotiations Wednesday and today. Carr appointed a special mediator to assist negotiations, and declared a media blackout.

With files from Christopher Balcom.

Updates: This story was updated with quotes from the Mount Allison Students’ Union and New Brunswick’s minister for post-secondary education, Jody Carr.

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