Province appoints mediator to help break deadlock in contract talks at Mt. A.

It looks like Mount Allison University and the union that represents 196 full and part-time professors and librarians will be heading back to the bargaining table in January.

The provincial minister of post-secondary education has appointed a mediator to help get negotiations going again after talks overseen by a provincially appointed conciliator broke down late last month.

Both sides say they’re willing to meet early in the new year with exact dates depending on the availability of the mediator.

Meantime, the Mount Allison Faculty Association (MAFA) has scheduled a strike vote for January 21 and 22 unless a tentative agreement is reached before then.

According to MAFA, the university’s refusal to fully replace faculty and librarians who retire or go on leave is a key issue in the contract talks that began in June. A related issue concerns what the union calls the “precarious” position of part-time professors who earn an average of just over $12,000 a year.

A MAFA news release issued earlier this week suggests there can be no agreement unless the university addresses these issues of “understaffing.”

“Mount Allison University is in the enviable position of having no debt and many years of an excess of revenues over expenditures,” the MAFA release says. “Its excellent reputation is held aloft by the steadfast efforts of its academic staff – both full-time and precarious – but this reputation is threatened by understaffing and the slow hollowing-out of the resources necessary to support its academic mission.”

For its part, the university says it considers the full and part-time contracts being negotiated to be longstanding, “mature collective agreements that require minimal change.”

In an update posted online on October 24, the university says MAFA’s bargaining team has proposed many significant changes with 100 still outstanding.

“Of these, there are more than 50 monetary items that the University estimates will cost in excess of $10 million over the life of the contract, which is an amount equivalent to an increase in salary and benefits of over 50 per cent,” the update adds.

To read the university’s bargaining updates, click here.

To read recent posts from the union, click here.

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1 Response to Province appoints mediator to help break deadlock in contract talks at Mt. A.

  1. Sally Cunliffe says:

    Perhaps the problem with the university is too much adminstration.. I’ve heard this is a common problem now in modern day universities … hiring for jobs such as “Black Student Advisor, Diversity Educator” seem frivolous and odd… adminstration and bureaucracy can become the beast of any organization… just some thoughts I have .. I feel the same way about hospitals and schools… waste that seems to accumulate but doesn’t contribute much to the organization and effectiveness of systems is always best trimmed off.

    Note from Bruce Wark: Thanks for your comment Sally. In his book, “Whatever Happened to the Music Teacher?” Professor Donald Savoie provides a comprehensive outline of management techniques used by the federal government. One of his arguments is that front-line workers — such as music teachers in our elementary schools — get supplanted by behind-the-scenes managers in charge of counting beans to ensure that governments are getting value for money. (Savoie’s arguments are complex and so, I’m simplifying them here by focussing on his point about the disappearance of music teachers.)

    I’ll give my own example of sophisticated bean counting that the federal government has imposed on municipal governments across Canada which receive about $2 billion a year in gas-tax funding. Partly to ensure that it can measure how local governments are spending the money, the feds are requiring them to implement elaborate and costly “asset management” plans. (I’ll paste in a link to a story I wrote about this below.)

    I’m not arguing that the asset management plans are a bad idea, just noting that they will direct money and effort into measurement schemes overseen and implemented by government bureaucrats with the help and advice of private-sector consultants. Proponents say asset management will provide local governments with better tools to plan their capital spending and they may be right. But they also provide employment for administrators who are not providing front-line services just as the music teacher gets replaced by school administrators crafting “mission statements”, “strategic plans” and coming up with “metrics” to measure educational “outcomes.”

    Like you, I haven’t studied administrative growth at Mt. A., but I do know that universities have been forced to rely heavily on students to finance their operations. (At Mt. A., about half the university’s revenue comes from government grants and the other half from students.) This means that universities must compete for students which requires huge efforts in recruitment along with costly upgrades to facilities and the expansion of services. When I taught at King’s in Halifax, the registrar used to say that students increasingly saw themselves as “consumers.”

    What I’m suggesting here — informed by Savoie’s arguments — is that administrative or bureaucratic growth in the public sector has systemic causes. In his final chapter fittingly entitled “So what happened to the music teacher?” Savoie suggests a long list of reforms including moving away from applying private-sector management techniques to government operations.

    Here’s a link to one of my stories on asset management:

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