The union representing 196 full and part-time professors and librarians at Mt. A. says it will announce on Friday when it will hold a formal strike vote if there’s still no agreement by then on a new contract with the university.
In a news release, the Mount Allison Faculty Association (MAFA) says it’s not surprised that the provincial minister of post-secondary education has decided not to appoint a conciliation board to help get negotiations moving again.
The release quotes MAFA President Matthew Litvak as saying that conciliation boards “have proven to be ineffective in resolving labour disputes at universities.”
The minister’s decision means that the union has the right to strike or the university could lock out its professors and librarians in nine days.
Robert Hiscock, a spokesman for the university, says the administration is hoping the minister will appoint a mediator to help resolve the dispute.
In its last update on bargaining dated December 3rd, the university complained that MAFA had too many contract proposals on the table posing “a practical impediment to constructive negotiations.”
Today’s MAFA news release points to what it calls the longstanding issue of academic understaffing resulting from “the university’s refusal to fully replace faculty and librarians on leave (for research sabbaticals, sick leaves, maternity leaves, etc.) and its failure to fully replace retiring faculty and librarians.”
The union says the number of full-time professors has decreased by about seven per cent in the last decade while the number of librarians has fallen by 33% over 15 years.
“The administration’s solution to the problem of academic understaffing is to rely increasingly on the category of underpaid and precarious workers,” MAFA says, referring to part-time academics it says earned an average of just over $12,000 last year, a figure well below the poverty line.
Parallels to 2014 strike
The negotiations between MAFA and the university began in June with a conciliator appointed in August. Conciliation talks broke down in late November with the conciliator filing a report to the minister this month.
Talks followed a similar timetable six years ago when members voted 86% in favour of strike action. A three-week strike in January/February 2014 ended when both sides agreed to binding arbitration after meeting with a special mediator appointed by the province.
Although a formal strike vote has yet to be held this time, MAFA members did vote 94% in favour of job action, including a strike if necessary, in an informal straw poll in October.
To read the latest MAFA news release, click here.
To read the university’s bargaining updates, click here.