Representatives from both the faculty union and the university have been meeting with a provincially appointed Conciliation Officer in an effort to reach a collective agreement for Mount Allison instructors.
The Conciliator was appointed after the Mount Allison Faculty Association (MAFA) filed a request with the Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour. The conciliator acts as a neutral third party in negotiations, helping work toward a mutual settlement. Collective agreements are written contracts that establish terms of employment.
The first meeting with the Conciliation Officer took place August 22nd. At least three Conciliation talks have taken place since then.
MAFA President Loralea Michaelis pointed out that MAFA has negotiated many successful agreements with the University over the years, saying, “we are optimistic that we will resolve our differences and everyone will go back to doing what it is we all do best.” While strike preparation is typical of collective bargaining, Michaelis emphasized that a strike would “be an unusual occurrence for us as an association with a 30 year history of collective bargaining.” The last faculty strike at Mt. A took place in 1999. Since then, MAFA and the University have successfully negotiated three collective agreements.
The appointment of a provincial conciliator is not an unusual step, though it does mean both parties were unable to reach the terms of a new agreement by themselves. Michaelis said that in past negotiations “conciliators have been useful in bringing the two parties closer together.”
The students’ union has not taken a stance on negotiations. “We’re making sure that as students we’re being fair to both the administration and the faculty at this point in time” said MASU president Melissa O’Rourke. While both sides have been tight-lipped about the issues on the table, O’Rourke said that MASU is working to ensure that the interests of students are considered in the bargaining process.
The University could not be reached for comment by press time.
MAFA represents approximately 165 full-time and sixty-five part-time faculty members at Mt. A. The three-year collective agreements of both units expired on June 30, 2013, although their terms remain legally in place for a year. During this period both sides will attempt to reach a new collective agreement. Formal negotiations began in July, and both sides met several times over the summer before the conciliator was called in.