Classes have been cancelled for about 2,200 students at Mount Allison University in Sackville where more than 200 full and part-time professors and librarians have walked off the job–their second strike in six years.
“We’re very upset,” Matthew Litvak, president of the Mount Allison Faculty Association (MAFA), said this morning during an interview on CBC Radio.
“If you look at the history of the negotiation process at Mount Allison University, it’s not been very positive,” he added. “There doesn’t seem to be a recognition of what we need to do and what resources need to be provided to deliver the programs that the students depend upon.”
Among other things, MAFA is seeking better pay and improved job security for its part-time members as well as replacement of faculty and librarians who retire or are away on leaves for maternity, illness or sabbaticals.
MAFA maintains that over the past decade there has been a drop in the number of full-time faculty of about 7 per cent and an increase in the number of part-timers, while the number of librarians has fallen by a third over 15 years.
Litvak accuses the administration of presenting a “take-it-or-leave-it” final offer as both sides bargained over the weekend with the help of a provincially appointed mediator.
“We were informed by the mediator that the employer would consider only minor tweaks to their take-it-or-leave-it offer,” he says. “It’s unfortunately clear from their actions that they may be willing to meet, but they’re not willing to meet to negotiate a settlement.”
For the latest news release from MAFA, click here.
Meantime, Robert Hiscock, a spokesman for the university administration, told CBC listeners that its bargaining team put forward an offer on Saturday that it hoped would provide the basis for a settlement, but MAFA rejected it.
“We tried to put the best offer on the table addressing as many issues as we could and some of our own issues and it just didn’t work out,” Hiscock said.
In an online posting, the administration describes the contract changes in its latest offer as “financially sustainable, while continuing to support the academic mission of the University.” To read the details, click here.
Students’ Union remains neutral
The President of the Mount Allison Students’ Union (MASU) says the strike is creating uncertainty and stress for students caught in the middle.
During a telephone interview, Emelyana Titarenko adds that MASU will push for tuition rebates based on the length of the strike.
“The fact that we won’t be having any seminars, lectures or labs, tutorials or any access to librarians is a pretty big cost when it comes down to it because we are paying for these services,” she says, noting that the administration does say on the university website that “any adjustment to tuition will be based on the length and impact of the strike.”
Titarenko, who hopes to graduate this year with a Bachelor of Science degree, says MASU is remaining neutral in the labour dispute.
“Although we do have a neutral stance on the matter,” she adds, “it doesn’t mean that we’re going to be inactive. We’re doing everything we possibly can to make sure that MAFA and the administration find a solution as quickly as possible.”
To read MASU’s news release on the strike, click here.
Bruce Wark worked in broadcasting and journalism education for more than 35 years. He was at CBC Radio for nearly 20 years as senior editor of network programs such as The World at Six and World Report. He currently writes for The New Wark Times where this story first appeared.
This story was first published by The Wark Times.