Mount Allison University in Sackville, NB, is in the midst of its third strike in the 1990s, and many faculty and other observers are wondering what the future holds for the institution.
Mount Allison is the perennial top small undergraduate university in Canada, but a closer look tells a different story, say the institution’s internal critics. “We may come in first overall in Maclean’s out of 23, and second on the budget per student measure, but our salary scale is a dismal twentieth in the same group,” says George De Benedetti, spokesperson for the Mount Allison Faculty Association.
The Association went on legal strike this past Thursday, when faculty members exchanged their warm offices for picket signs, winter clothing and boots. Eighty-five percent of the bargaining unit voted to strike and spirits on the line are high, says De Benedetti.
Superficially, at least, De Benedetti says, this strike is about money, but it is also about the future of the institution. “We want wage parity with our sister institutions. It is unrealistic to claim that this institution will maintain its quality or its reputation with the offer that the Board of Regents has made to us,” he says.
The Board has offered many members of the faculty increases which will actually see the scale fall further behind other institutions, De Benedetti says. “At many universities, the administration wants to increase wages if they can because they know that this will attract the brightest new faculty, and provide incentives to everyone else to work hard,” De Benedetti says. But at Mount Allison, the goal appears to be the opposite. “They treat us badly, underpay us, deny that they are underpaying us, and then somehow expect that Mount Allison will retain its reputation,” he says.
De Benedetti says that in the last seven years many faculty and other staff have left the university, and he expects that the institution will have a hard time keeping its new faculty unless the Board and Administration change their attitude.
“They are seeing that despite the globally-competitive environment we live in, this administration will not even pay regionally-competitive salaries,” De Benedetti says.
Mount Allison under the leadership of President Ian Newbould has had troubled labour relations. In his first year as President, the faculty went on strike to protect sabbaticals, oppose mandatory retirement, and avoid a salary cut. In 1994, the support staff went on strike for six weeks at the height of winter. Now, the faculty is out again.
“The President credits himself with balancing the books, but that’s easy to do when you continue to underpay all your staff, including secretaries, clerks, and grounds workers,” De Benedetti says.
De Benedetti also cites a recent report commissioned by the Canadian Association of University Teachers and written by Professor Fred Wilson of the University of Toronto, who pointed to a lack of civility at Mount Allison. “The Faculty Council is still on record as voting non-confidence in the President, and the students and Faculty voted against his reappointment, especially since it was done without a proper review,” De Benedetti says.
“Yesterday’s announcement of support from the Board of Regents does not surprise us. It has reacted in the same way several times. But you have to wonder how long they are prepared to back him without question,” De Benedetti says.
For more information contact:
Prof. George De Benedetti, President
Mount Allison Faculty Association
(506) 536-2968 (strike headquarters)
(506) 536-2396 (Home)
FAX (506) 536-0200