CAUT Bulletin Article Published March 8, 1999
The Strike That Should Not Have Happened
Members of the Mount Allison Faculty Association ended their twenty-six-day strike on February 15, as a result of a mediated settlement. New Brunswick’s Minister of Labour had appointed Mr. Douglas Stanley, a nationally renowned mediator and former Deputy-Minister of Labour in New Brunswick, as a special mediator in the dispute on February 8. Although, he had no authority to impose a settlement, the government mandated him to try to bring the parties to a resolution and to submit a report to the Minister of Labour, which was to be copied to the parties.
The mediation session which lasted through February 10-12 did not produce a settlement at the table. However, the parties did settle on the issue of giving departments a vote on the creation of part-time and instructor positions, an issue which MAFA sought, in exchange for MAFA’s relinquishing its demand of a 16 percent limit on credit courses taught by non-bargaining unit persons. What remained outstanding by Friday, February 12, was the matter of how to deal with the issue of an administrator on the Tenure and Promotion Committee against whom a candidate for tenure or promotion alleged bias, and the issue of salaries.
In his report to the Minister of Labour on February 12, Mr. Stanley recommended what he saw as a settlement of the outstanding issues to the Minister. The Mediator recommended a three-year agreement, that the Faculty Association’s position on the issue of bias be accepted, that the Employer’s salary scale for the first year be accepted on condition that the salary scales for the remaining two years be negotiated in June 1999, and if the parties could not agree by July 1, that the matter be arbitrated, and further recommended that a back-to-work protocol be negotiated before striking members returned to work. On Saturday, February 13, MAFA members endorsed the report, as did members of the Board of Regents. On Sunday, February 14, the parties were to negotiate a back-to-work protocol.
When the Employer team came to the table on Sunday, they declared, in spite of their having accepted the terms of the Stanley report, that they would not negotiate a protocol. Simultaneously, the Employer’s media relations department had announced on their web page and through media releases that faculty members and librarians would be returning to work at 8:30 a.m. Monday, February 15. After approximately eight hours of negotiations by telephone on Sunday between the Department of Labour and the parties, an entente was reached by which the Faculty Association would propose to its striking members on Monday morning for approval that they return to work that afternoon, that Mr. Stanley would be recalled for mediation/arbitration on Wednesday February 16, and that if a back-work-protocol could not be negotiated by 6:00 p.m. on the 16th, that Mr. Stanley would arbitrate the outstanding issues based on final offer selection. MAFA members accepted to return to work sooner rather than later because of the safeguard of compulsory binding arbitration at the end of the negotiating process on Wednesday.
A back-to-work protocol was negotiated on Wednesday except for the “signing bonus” which ultimately had to be arbitrated. The arbitrator found in MAFA’s favour. All members of the bargaining unit would receive a special research grant of $1,800 with a cash-out feature of a maximum of $500 on each June 30 of the collective agreement. This award was given in partial recognition of the extra work striking members would have through an extended teaching term for the 1998-99 academic year and for the subsequent encroachment on their research time.
In their written summation to the arbitrator on the issue of final offer selection on the “signing bonus,” the Employer suggested the arbitrator could be changing the terms and conditions of employment of the new collective agreement by accepting either ‘signing-bonus’ proposal. This was effectively putting the arbitrator and MAFA on notice that the Administration might subsequently mount a court challenge. “We hope that common sense would prevail among the Board of Regents that they would accept an arbitrated settlement to which its Administration was a willing party prior to the arbitration,” said George De Benedetti, President of the Mount Allison Faculty Association.
MAFA members had declared well before the start of the strike that they would accept binding arbitration to settle the outstanding issues. The Administration had refused the notion of binding arbitration on the grounds that they could not allow an outside party to determine salaries for fear that an arbitrator would impose a settlement that would jeopardize the future financial well-being of the University. By having accepted the Stanley report of February 12, the Employer did in fact accept binding arbitration to settle salaries for the remaining two years of the collective agreement. “In this respect, they could have avoided the strike had the Employer accepted the principle of binding arbitration before the strike, as was asked of them by MAFA, students, and the public,” said George De Benedetti.
The strike has ended but the conflict continues. The Employer team had agreed at the table to increase sabbatical salaries from 85 percent to 90 percent to which it now denies. MAFA will subject the matter to arbitration, and might also launch an unfair labour practice before the New Brunswick Industrial Relations Board.
For more information contact:
Prof. George De Benedetti, President
Mount Allison Faculty Association
P.O. Box 6314, Sackville, New Brunswick, E4L 1G6
Fax (506) 364-2288