Negotiations

NEGOTIATION UPDATE: Friday Feb 7, 2020

We are encouraged by the active and ongoing negotiations between MAFA and the administration on Thursday and Friday.  We will make every effort to ensure that these negotiations continue until a settlement is reached.

When our job action is over, we will be returning to work with the expectation of resuming our collaborative working relationships with the administration to ensure that Mount Allison is a community of which we can be proud.  We want MAFA’s communications to reflect our commitment to the Mount Allison community.

Our members are disappointed with the administration’s decision to bargain in public by posting their proposals on the Mount Allison website, most recently by trying to create the impression that the current dispute can be resolved without negotiation.  The main issues in dispute at the bargaining table touch directly on equity and justice in the workplace; they affect our most precarious members, those who work part-time, and those who need disability accommodation.  They are issues that can only be settled through negotiation.

MAFA’s focus will be on the negotiating process so that we can reach an appropriate settlement as quickly as possible.

Friday Feb 7, 2020

RALLY TODAY! Meet at Headquarters (170 Main Street) at 12:45 and then march to Vogue Cinema. Alternatively, join up with us at the Vogue around 1:00.

NEGOTIATION UPDATE: Feb 6, 2020

The MAFA negotiating team met with the Employer and the provincially-appointed mediator on the morning of February 5th.  MAFA outlined to the Employer possible next steps for negotiating a settlement.  In reply, the Employer team said that they were unable to envision a negotiated settlement and asked MAFA to select from a list of four options.  None of these options involve working together to reach a negotiated settlement.  None involve any further discussion of MAFA’s core issues, in particular:

  • guidelines for the accommodation of faculty and librarians with disabilities;
  • job security and compensation for part-time faculty;
  • workload and resources for the academic mission of the university.

These are issues that can only be resolved by those who are most directly involved in the academic workplace.  These are issues that require discussion and negotiation.  We are meeting with the Employer’s team this morning. MAFA’s goal remains the same: a negotiated settlement.

NEGOTIATION UPDATE: Feb 2, 2020

The MAFA negotiating team communicated with the provincially-appointed mediator this morning to reiterate our concerns with the Employer’s offer of February 1st. The mediator conveyed these concerns to the Employer, and returned with the message that the Employer position remains unchanged.

The MAFA negotiating team has recommended to the MAFA Executive that we reject the Employer’s offer of February 1st. The Executive concurs. The Employer is still pursuing unacceptable concessions, and they have failed to address adequately academic resources and workload, accommodation for faculty and librarians with disabilities, part-time job security, and part-time compensation.

MAFA remains open to negotiating. We are disappointed that the Employer is unwilling to meet with us today to reach a tentative settlement before the strike deadline. In the absence of a tentative settlement, MAFA will be on strike as of 12:01am Monday February 3, 2020.

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 administration 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 roll back improvements to working conditions negotiated in previous rounds of bargaining and do little to improve the employment rights and compensation of part-time faculty, many of whom struggle to earn a living wage.

Does MAFA want to strike?

No. The MAFA Negotiating Team has worked diligently over the last several months to reach an agreement with the administration. 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 your professors and librarians are heard.  MAFA’s goal is to ensure that students receive a high quality university experience and this means ensuring that faculty and librarians 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 June 13, 2019. The two parties submitted a joint application for conciliation and the NB Ministry of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour (PETL) appointed a conciliator who began meeting with the two negotiating teams on September 6, 2019. The purpose of a conciliator is to assist the parties in reaching an agreement. However, the conciliation process was unsuccessful. On November 29, the conciliator filed his report with the Minister of Labour declaring that the parties are at an impasse. Two weeks later, the PETL Minister announced the decision not to appoint a conciliation board and a Mediator was appointed shortly thereafter. The mediator has been working with the parties since Dec 16, 2019. Mediation will continue even though we are on strike.

What does the strike involve?

You will see 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 (170 Main Street, beside Jack’s Pizza). You are welcome to join us on the picket lines 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 will the strike affect me?

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 term.

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 is to get back to work and continue teaching as soon as possible.

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 seek to 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:

  • greater support for the academic mission of the university, so that departments, programs and the library can continue to deliver the excellent teaching and learning environment that Mount Allison students expect and deserve
  • job security and better compensation and benefits for teaching instructors, part-time librarians and part-time faculty
  • accommodation guidelines and processes that do not discriminate against faculty and librarians with disabilities
  • fair adjustments to full time salaries that do not represent real wage cuts
  • 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
  • ensuring that collegial processes governing tenure and promotion decisions are fair, reasonable, and equitable

What does MAFA want in a new agreement?

MAFA’s bargaining proposals aim to make improvements in our Collective Agreements and to address the issues that our members have identified as high priority: better resources for academic programs, including provisions to ensure that faculty and librarians on sabbatical leave are replaced; appropriate measures to address workload and overwork; clear guidelines to govern the accommodation of faculty and librarians with disabilities; and fair and reasonable compensation, including salary, pensions, and benefits.

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. MAFA is respecting this protocol and not discussing specifics of proposals in public. 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?

Inadequately resourced programs undermine the integrity and coherence of the education that Mount Allison University aspires to offer. We need adequate faculty (and other resources) to deliver courses and programs students need. 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 June 13, 2019.

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, 2019. This expiration necessitates a new agreement. Negotiation is the route to reaching a new agreement.

What can I do to help?

Write to President Jean-Paul Boudreau. Here is a draft of a sample letter that you might send to express your concerns:

Dear President Boudreau,

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.

Members, for more information, check your inbox for Negotiations Bulletins or go to the Members Only area.

Frequently Asked Questions about Current Contract Negotiations at Mount Allison (Update: Dec 18, 2019)

What is MAFA’s core concern in this round of negotiations?

MAFA’s core concern is academic understaffing. This is a concern of long standing and has resulted from two factors: the university’s refusal to fully replace faculty and librarians on leave (for research sabbaticals, sick leaves, maternity leaves, etc.), and its failure to fully replace retiring faculty and librarians. This amounts to a failure to support the academic mission of the university by not hiring enough staff to deliver core programs.

What does academic understaffing look like at Mount Allison?

In the last decade, the number of full-time faculty has decreased by about 7%, roughly translating into the loss of one professor from each floor of each building with faculty offices on campus. In the last 15 years, the number of librarians has fallen by 33%, even though 21st-century “information literacy” is part of the core mission of Mount Allison.

University policy used to be that sabbatical, maternity, and sick leaves were replaced at close to 100%. About a decade ago, that rate began to drop until less than 32% were replaced. In the last round of negotiations, three years ago, the administration signed a Memorandum of Agreement in which it committed to increase replacements to just 70%. That leaves significant gaps in academic programs.

Academic understaffing means empty classrooms and empty offices. It means academic timetables are missing the key courses that students need to complete degree programs that are supposed to prepare them for graduate school and professional work. It means remaining faculty members are performing work that is uncredited by offering extra courses, where possible, to help students complete their programs.

What does “precarious employment” mean?

The administration’s solution to the problem of academic understaffing is to rely increasingly on the category of underpaid and precarious workers known as adjuncts or stipendiary professors: part-time academics waiting for full-time positions. Part-time academics at Mount Allison received an average income of $12,136.43 per year in 2018, placing them well below the poverty line. The number of full-time positions for which they are waiting is shrinking and the part-time positions available to them are in constant danger of disappearing.

What has happened in this round of negotiations?

Unfortunately, very little. MAFA believes that negotiations require committed engagement by both sides over the pressing problems that face the university, including the on-going issue of understaffing and how this impacts the university’s academic mission. Three years ago, in the last round of negotiations, the Administration made a promise to revisit the problem of academic understaffing and work together with MAFA to find a solution. That promise has not been kept in this round.

Negotiations began in June. In August the administration’s negotiators announced that they would be unwilling to discuss anything — until conciliation — bearing on managements rights, financial issues, or replacement or redistribution of duties having any implications for operational costs. That did not leave much else to talk about, and so months of valuable time were wasted. During talks with the two sides and the conciliation officer in November, the promised discussion amounted to a reiteration of the administration’s rejection of MAFA’s positions and a demand that MAFA unilaterally drop its core proposals on academic understaffing.

Does MAFA have too many proposals?

MAFA has brought the usual number of proposals to this round of bargaining. MAFA is concerned about academic understaffing, the accommodation of disabilities, and the terms and conditions of employment of our Part-time and Full-time members. MAFA has consulted with its members to create a variety of proposals, including different versions of proposals, in an effort to present the administration with a wide range of options for solving the problem of academic understaffing. We are keen to work together to find a solution. The administration refuses to take our efforts seriously by complaining that there are too many proposals.

Are MAFA’s proposals too expensive?

The administration has added up the cost of every one of MAFA’s options and mistakenly concluded that the expense would be too great of a burden. Their costing approach is similar to a customer who sees three snow blowers on sale for $500, $800, and $1000 and then concludes it will cost $2300 to get a snow blower.

What needs to happen next?

The administration needs to stop wasting time and negotiate with MAFA to reach a settlement that addresses the pressing issue of academic understaffing. Mount Allison University is in the enviable position of having no debt and many years of an excess of revenues over expenditures. Its excellent reputation is held aloft by the steadfast efforts of its academic staff – both full-time and precarious – but this reputation is threatened by understaffing and the slow hollowing-out of the resources necessary to support its academic mission.  The time has come for the university to keep its promises and to fulfill the trust placed in it by the students, the government, and the public at large.