Faculty association sets strike deadline

Faculty at Mount Allison University may be walking off the job Monday morning.

On Tuesday, the Mount Allison Faculty Association (MAFA) issued a press release announcing that the union has set a strike deadline for 12:01 am on Jan. 27. If a new collective agreement is not reached by Monday, faculty will strike.

The deadline was issued “in a continuing effort to resolve [MAFA’s] dispute with the administration over the terms of the next collective agreement,” according to the MAFA release.

The decision came following two negotiation sessions Monday morning and afternoon.

“We were hoping for more [from Monday’s negotiations],” MAFA President Loralea Michaelis told The Argosy.

MAFA’s bargaining team is scheduled to meet with the administration on Friday, Jan. 24. Negotiation times have also been scheduled for the weekend.

“We’re doing everything we can to reach a deal,” she said, “but there are certain proposals on the table that constitute unacceptable concessions that we are unable to make.”

“Academic control of teaching and research … is our core issue,” Michaelis said. She said the university proposals aim to increase administrative power over faculty teaching and research, while neglecting faculty decision-making ability over academic resources and funding of academic programs.

MAFA represents approximately 154 full-time and fifty-six part-time professors, librarians, and archivists. Their previous collective agreement expired June 30, 2013.

Michaelis said the strike deadline is intended to motivate the university to reconsider their proposals, and send a message that MAFA members cannot wait indefinitely for an agreement.

Mt. A’s Provost and Vice-President Academic and Research Karen Grant said she was surprised to learn of the strike deadline through a press release.

“I would have thought that [the university negotiating team] would have found out yesterday when they were meeting with the faculty association at the bargaining table,” Grant said.

Grant said the university’s team presented some revised proposals on Monday and is hoping that the faculty association will have some responses to said proposals at the Friday negotiations.

“There was a slight change in the monetary offer,” Grant said. For instance, the university has increased the 5.5 per cent raise over four years that was previously on the table to six per cent.

Grant said “a number of other minor changes” to university proposals in other areas were presented on Monday.

Michaelis said MAFA members are unsure what kind of conditions to expect in the event of a strike, given that the university has not negotiated any strike protocol.

Strike protocol would establish the terms under which a strike would take place, addressing issues such as the salary status of members on leave, and faculty access to Mt. A email.

“When and if the faculty goes on strike, the terms of that process will be dealt with at that time. It’s not something we would negotiate,” Grant said.

Michaelis said MAFA has tabled strike protocol during negotiations on two occasions.

In early January, the university announced it would not lock out faculty until after May convocation. “I don’t foresee any change in that strategy,” Grant said.

“If any member of the bargaining unit chooses not to go on strike, they’ll continue with other responsibilities,” Grant said.

“We’re doing our due diligence to prepare for every eventuality … As far as we’re concerned, we’re committed to getting an agreement at the table.”

The Mount Allison Students’ Union (MASU) continues to maintain a neutral stance. “We don’t think it’s [in] the best interests of students to side with either of the parties,” said MASU President Melissa O’Rourke.

O’Rourke and MASU Vice-President, Academic Affairs Ryan Harley said that the MASU executive is preparing a proposal to lobby the university for a tuition rebate for students to make up for missed instruction time if a strike occurs.

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