Mount Allison faculty strike

Members of the Mount Allison Faculty Association are on strike today and all classes are suspended after last-minute negotiations over the weekend failed. (Michele Brideau/Radio-Canada)

Students at Mount Allison University in Sackville say they are hoping the strike by faculty will end quickly.

All classes are suspended after professors and librarians who are members of the Mount Allison Faculty Association headed to the picket line instead of the classroom early Monday morning.

Student Keri Martin says leading up to the strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. Monday, her professors had been very open about the process.

"We don't really have much of a say in it so it kind of sucks," Martin said. "I really hope that it's a short strike."

Last-minute negotiations fail

Mount Allison's administration and faculty failed to reach an agreement in last-minute negotiations ahead of last night's midnight strike deadline set by the faculty association.

Loralea Michaelis, president of the Mount Allison Faculty Association, says the university administration was unable to provide professors with any reason to settle.

"We had high hopes, we felt we had been very clear at the bargaining table about what it was that we needed to see in a deal at the end of the weekend in order to avoid a strike."

Michaelis says the core issue for faculty members is a series of proposals by Mount Allison that she says would increase administrative control over teaching and research.

'It really does show that there is a very wide gap between the way in which the faculty understand the university and its mission and the way in which the administration understands the university and its mission and I think that that gap is also in play at UNB.'- Mount Allison Faculty Association president, Loralea Michaelis

"It speaks to the very idea of the university, the kind of university that Mount Allison will be," Michaelis said. "In order for Mount Allison to embody the idea of the university it has to give academic freedom to its faculty in order to decide for themselves the conditions and the ways in which they will teach and pursue their research." 

Michaelis says there is a broad array of issues the two sides don't agree on including salaries, pensions, benefits and an increasing workload.

"Full-time hiring has not kept pace with increased student enrolment and the result is increased class sizes and gaps in programs which faculty will overwork in order to fill."

Mount Allison vice-president wants return to bargaining

Karen Grant, vice-president of academics and research at Mount Allison University, says over the weekend the university tabled three different proposals in an effort to reach a new collective agreement.

"Each addressing what we thought were key issues for the faculty association but also key issues that preserve what we're trying to achieve here," Grant said.

"Our proposals were guided by our concerns for the quality of the institution and its academic programs as well as ensuring that we do provide these proposals in the context of a sustainable approach."

Grant says she is hoping that both sides will return to the negotiating table quickly so students are not adversely affected.

 "We are very much concerned about making sure we get them back into school and in the meantime we're encouraging them to keep track of what's going on by following the website but also to keep up with their studies and assignments so that they don't get far behind."

Classes, labs and tutorials at Mount Allison are suspended but all residences, the dining hall, library and athletic facilities remain open.

Michaelis says New Brunswickers should take a close look at what's happening at both Mount Allison and the University of New Brunswick where faculty are also on strike.

"Faculty are challenging the way in which the administration has been managing the university," she said.

"It really does show that there is a very wide gap between the way in which the faculty understand the university and its mission and the way in which the administration understands the university and its mission and I think that that gap is also in play at UNB."

Student Danielle Bourgeois says she has her fingers crossed that the strike at Mount Allison doesn't drag on as long as the strike at UNB, which is now into its third week.

"What they were saying as well was they didn't think it would be very long but that's not how it turned out, so hope it doesn't go the same way for us."