UNB and faculty union reach temporary truce
Both sides have agreed to no walkout or lockout over Christmas exam period
A temporary truce has been declared in the labour dispute between the University of New Brunswick and its professors.
The union representing faculty is holding a strike vote next week, but both sides have agreed no walkout or lockout will occur over the Christmas exam period.
The deal also includes a promise that negotiations will continue over the holidays, said Miriam Jones, president of the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers.
"We didn't want to have seven or eight days without bargaining and they have agreed to meet us at least during December.”
The agreement covers until Jan. 2, said Jones.
The school, meanwhile, says it's pleased with the temporary agreement.
"We have been communicating directly with student leaders in recent days as the situation has evolved and will continue to do so," Spokesperson Greg Carriere wrote on behalf of UNB.
"We prefer not to comment publicly on the substance of the negotiations out of respect for the collective bargaining process."
Mediator in place
The provincial government has appointed a mediator to work with the University of New Brunswick's administration and faculty.
Post-Secondary Education Minister Jody Carr says a member of his department will work with both sides to reach an agreement — and avoid any academic disruption.
"We would encourage all students in particular — and all staff — certainly not to encourage an increase of anxiety at this point," said Carr.
"It is part of the process. We consider this the early part of the process," said Carr.
"We're providing a mediator, we're hoping that will assist both parties who have students at heart, who have the future of the university at heart, who will ensure that they do their very best to come to an agreement."
Negotiations between AUNBT and the university have been ongoing since March.
Professors feel the administration isn't maintaining the university's quality and reputation, said Jones.
"We think that our salaries, our working conditions, need to be comparable to those of a group of universities in a comparison group that we have had for a long time — other comprehensive universities similar size," she said.
There is a growing gulf between the salaries we have at UNB and the salaries of our comparison group.- Miriam Jones, president of AUNBT
The universities the association uses for comparison purposes consists of Memorial, Dalhousie, Concordia, Carleton, Queens, McMaster, Guelph, Waterloo, Windsor, Manitoba, Regina, Saskatchewan, Simon Fraser and Victoria.
"We're on average 20 per cent behind and we've been falling over the past, five, six or seven years, or the past couple of contracts," said Jones.
"There is a growing gulf between the salaries we have at UNB and the salaries of our comparison group."
The salary ceiling for a professor at UNB currently stands at $150,510 under the current contract.
"Most of our members aren't complaining about what they take home," said Jones. "But what they are complaining about is it's getting increasing difficult to hire people when they can go somewhere else and get a similar job at another institution for 20 per cent more."
Jones considers it unlikely that the two sides won't come to an agreement eventually. There has never been a faculty strike or lockout at UNB.
Association members will be polled on Dec. 3 and Dec. 4 on whether the association executive will be authorized to call a strike at some point in the future should negotiations fail.