New Brunswick

Mount Allison professors holding strike vote

Mount Allison University faculty will be holding a strike vote on Monday and Tuesday.

Vote comes as UNB professors hit the picket line

Students at Mount Allison University in Sackville may soon be facing the threat of a professors' strike.

The faculty will be holding a strike vote on Monday and Tuesday, with the results expected to be made public by Tuesday night.

The vote comes just as professors and teaching staff at the University of New Brunswick hit the picket lines over pay and working conditions.

The Mount Allison Faculty Association says it's fighting for fair and reasonable compensation, although it won't say how much.

Association president Loralea Michaelis contends the administration's priorities are out of whack.

"More of the operating budget is going toward administrative support, buildings, and landscaping at the expense of the academic mission," said Michaelis.

The association also wants to see more tenured positions and fewer positions filled with contracts and casual workers. Other issues include workload, replacement for faculty on leave, pension contributions and the role of student evaluations of professors in performance evaluations.

A strike is imminent if the administration is not willing to negotiate on the association's top priorities, said Michaelis.

But the university contends it has put a good offer on the table — a four-year wage increase starting at one per cent in the first year and increasing by 0.25 per cent in each of the following years.

"The salaries are certainly in line with, and in some cases better than is the case with other …universities in the region," said Karen Grant, provost and vice-president of academic and research.

The association is flexible, said Michaelis.

"What they're offering us on salary could be adequate, if they were offering us more in other areas that are of concern to us," she said.

Still, students are concerned.

"It's a bit of a worry for students, as we're just swinging into a new semester," said Lucas Hicks, a second-year history student.

"I love it here, but I don't want to be here too much longer than I need to be," said Michael Murray, now in his fifth year of studying biology and math. "I don't want them to strike, I don't think the teachers want to strike either, I don't think anybody does."

Melissa O'Rourke, president of the Mount Allison Students' Union, is reassuring students that negotiations can continue even if the faculty votes to strike.

"We would really prefer not to see a strike," she said. "We hope that they're going to be able to resolve that so there's no disruption to classes, so that students will be able to continue on with the remainder of their semester." 

The university has said it will not exercise its option under the Industrial Relations Act to lock out full-time or part-time employees before the May convocation.

The administration and Mount Allison Faculty Association had previously agreed to no lockout or walkout until at least Jan. 6.

Both sides have been in a legal position to take action since Dec. 29.

They met with a provincially-appointed mediation officer on Jan. 5, but "a number of substantial issues remain to be resolved," according to a statement from the university.

Negotiations have been ongoing since May.

The Mount Allison Faculty Association represents about 159 full-time and 53 part-time academic faculty, librarians, and archivists at Mount Allison University.

The full-time and part-time collective agreements expired on June 30.


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