Negotiations and the strike: FAQ

How do I get updates on what’s happening?

Follow our Twitter feed at @MAFA_MTA or like us on Facebook to receive regular updates about negotiations and notices of new material posted on the negotiation website.

Why is MAFA on strike?

The Employer has rejected or refused to discuss most of MAFA’s proposals for providing greater support to the academic mission of the University and for improving conditions of work for our members. Instead, the administration has proposed changes that would undermine fair process in decisions over tenure, promotion, and sabbaticals, and erode academic freedom by increasing the power of the administration to control how academic staff conduct teaching and research.

After six months of contract negotiations, we are at an impasse.  MAFA held a legal strike vote on January 13 and 14 in which 86% of the members of both bargaining units authorized the MAFA Executive to call a strike.   Our strike began on January 27 after intensive negotiations failed to produce a tentative settlement.

Does MAFA want to strike?

The short answer is no.  The MAFA Negotiating Team has worked diligently over the last several months to reach an agreement with the Employer. It has presented several proposals and will continue to demonstrate flexibility and openness in negotiating. No one wants to strike. But MAFA members, your professors and librarians, must be able to withdraw their labour when a new Collective Agreement is not reached by the regular bargaining process. It is important to ensure that the voices of full-time and part-time academic staff are heard.  MAFA’s goal is to ensure that students receive a high quality university experience and this means ensuring that academic staff are valued and treated in a fair and equitable manner.

Why don’t you get a mediator to help resolve the impasse?

MAFA has been negotiating with the administration since July 4, 2013. At MAFA’s request, the NB Ministry of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour (PETL) appointed a conciliator on August 16, 2013.  The purpose of a conciliator is to assist the parties in reaching an agreement.  However, the conciliation process was unsuccessful.  On December 9, the conciliator filed her report with the Minister of Labour declaring that the parties are at an impasse.  When PETL issued its “no board” decision on December 20, a mediator was appointed to assist with negotiations.  The mediator has been working with the parties since January 5, 2014.  Mediation is continuing even now that we are on strike.

What does the strike involve?

You will have already seen pickets at the entrances to the university campus. These pickets do not prevent your access to the university grounds and will be peaceful. Please feel free to stop and chat with us on the picket lines or at our Strike HQ at 98 Main. You are welcome to join us too and show your support!

How long will the strike last?

No one knows for sure.  The length of a strike depends on progress at the negotiating table. MAFA is committed to a timely and fair resolution at the bargaining table.  Much depends on the willingness of the administration to bargain in good faith.

How does the strike affect me?

All classes have been cancelled.  You should continue with your studies and assignments. When an agreement is reached you should be ready to return to class immediately and continue with the balance of the term. MAFA regrets any disruption in your academic year.  We are committed to defending academic staff and the quality of education at Mount Allison University.

Will I lose my credits this term? I’m graduating.

MAFA’s priority is to reach an agreement that will satisfy all parties and be fair and reasonable.  Our goal will be to get back to work and continue teaching as soon as possible.  Students will not be adversely affected by strike action in the long term.  There has never been a case in Canada in which students have lost an academic term or been unable to graduate as a result of a faculty strike.

Who makes the decision about my exams and academic year?

All issues about exams, the academic year, and any required accommodations for missed classes and exams are the responsibility of the administration.  Please contact the MTA administration for more details. In a return to work protocol, MAFA will ensure that the students’ interests are protected and that the academic integrity of your degree will not be compromised.

What is MAFA fighting for?

MAFA is fighting for the future of the university as a community devoted to free inquiry and the intellectual development of all its members. MAFA is fighting for a university in which research and teaching take precedence over buildings and landscaping. MAFA is also fighting to uphold the principles and processes that protect academic freedom and collegial governance, to ensure that decisions bearing on the fate of the university are shaped by open and transparent debate, and governed by academic considerations and academic judgments.

What does MAFA want in a new agreement?

MAFA’s proposals aim at making improvements in our Collective Agreements and addressing issues which our members have identified as high priority: appropriate measures to address workload and overwork; fair and reasonable compensation, including salary, pensions, and benefits; and adequate support for academic programs. MAFA’s proposals also aim to strengthen protections for academic freedom and intellectual property, and to ensure that key decisions over evaluations, tenure, promotion, and sabbatical leaves are fair, reasonable, and equitable.

The administration has provided details about their proposals. Why hasn’t MAFA done the same?

At the start of the negotiation process, the MAFA Negotiating Team and the administration’s Negotiating Team agreed to a negotiation protocol, which sets out appropriate practices for both parties during negotiations. In this protocol, the parties agreed that proposals would only be presented and discussed at the bargaining table. Of course, the Negotiating Teams must consult with the groups that they represent over the course of negotiations. For MAFA, this is our members; for the administration, this is the Board of Regents. But these consultations must remain confidential as the parties work their way towards a settlement. The publication of bargaining proposals can make a settlement more difficult to reach: once one side has taken a position in public it becomes harder to retreat from that position, and reaching a settlement involves retreating from positions and finding a common ground. Apart from stating its general objectives in these negotiations, MAFA has not committed itself in public to any particular proposal. MAFA is determined to abide by appropriate bargaining practices, and to honour our negotiation protocol.

How can I support you if I don’t know the details of your proposals?

You can support us best of all by engaging with the issues that we have been raising in our public materials.  Also, you can encourage the administration to negotiate with us at the bargaining table, rather than negotiating on the university website.

How would the administration’s current position affect students?

The erosion of academic freedom erodes the principal condition for original research and high quality teaching from which students benefit. Inadequately resourced programs undermine the integrity and coherence of the education that Mount Allison University aspires to offer. Overworked and over-busy faculty are unable to provide students with the enrichment of independent study courses and honours thesis supervisions. If working conditions at Mount Allison University do not improve, recruitment and retention of faculty and librarians will become a problem. And remember, our working conditions are your learning conditions.

How long has MAFA been negotiating with the administration?

MAFA and the Employer began negotiating on July 4, 2013.

Why has MAFA been negotiating with the administration?

The Collective Agreements between the full- and part-time faculty and the administration expired on June 30, 2013. This expiration necessitates a new agreement. Negotiation is the route to reaching a new agreement.

What can I do to help?

Write to President Robert Campbell (rcampbell@mta.ca).  Here is a draft of a sample letter that you might send to express your concerns:

Dear President Campbell,
 
As a student at Mount Allison University, I am concerned about the current labour disruption. I urge the administration to bring the strike to an end by taking the negotiation process seriously, and reaching a fair agreement with the Mount Allison Faculty Association – one that supports their goals to ensure the quality of education for Mount Allison students.
 
Sincerely, etc.

I have more questions. Who do I contact?

Follow our Twitter feed at @MAFA_MTA or like us on Facebook to receive regular updates about negotiations and notices of new material posted on the negotiation website.