On Tuesday, January 28, the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers (AUNBT) held a public talk at its Fredericton Strike Headquarters, located at 698 MacLeod St., Fredericton.
Titled “Labour History in New Brunswick, Past and Present”, the session was presented by UNB History Professor David Frank and Raymond Léger, an employee of the Canadian Union of Public Employees who has served as a research representative for the provinces of NB and PEI since 1997.
David Frank gave an overview of labour history in the province. Frank told the NB Media Coop: “We wanted to talk about where our story fits into the much longer story of organized labour in the province, which goes back at least 150 years. All citizens need to know about the part that unions of many kinds have played in building the economic capacity and social capital of the province.”
Frank gave an overview of labour history in the province. His recently published collection, titled Provincial Solidarities: A History of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour (Athabasca University Press, 2013) has also been published in French.
Frank explained: “the complex labour relations system that has evolved in this province in order to solve disputes and reconcile differences.” He was pleased with the reaction: “people were interested to hear about how the goal of leveling up wages and conditions was pursued by New Brunswick workers in the past, and supported by provincial governments.”
Along with holding an M.A. in History from the Université de Moncton, Léger is recognized as one of the foremost sources on labour history in the Maritime Provinces.
Centering on more recent union-related events, Léger described the ongoing contemporary crisis. He outlined the recent tendencies in anti-union actions that have occurred in the province, especially in the fields of specialized labour. For Léger, “it is important to benefit from other unions experience.”
AUNBT’s Vice President, Allan Reid, stated that the Labour Talk was “seen as a good complement to other direct-involvement activities for our members. It would have been a terrible waste to squander the availability of two leading experts in the field at such a time.” Reid confirms that the event was a great experience for the members: “Some were clearly already familiar with the topic and for others it was just as clearly all new, but all seemed fully engaged.”
AUNBT has a relatively short history as a union, since it first became an association in 1956. Its collective agreement was ratified in 1979 when AUNBT was one of the first faculty associations in Canada to become a certified trade union under NB’s Industrial Relations Board. AUNBT only became the bargaining agent for the Part-Time Professors and Librarians in 2008. In its history, Jan. 13th’s decision to go on strike is the first job action that has had to be taken. A tentative agreement was reached on Jan. 30 and AUNBT members have been back at work since Feb. 3, 2014.
Sophie M. Lavoie writes for the NB Media Co-op.