Acadia University faculty poised to strike Monday

Faculty and the administration at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., have agreed to meet this weekend in a final attempt to reach a collective agreement before the Monday morning strike deadline.

Faculty union, university's board of governors to meet with conciliator on weekend

Acadia University's board of governors and the faculty association have been trying to reach a new collective agreement since March but haven't met since Nov. 16. (Robert Short/CBC)

Faculty at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., are poised to walk off the job Monday morning if weekend talks with the school's board of governors do not produce a contract agreement.

The Acadia University Faculty Association filed the official notice of strike action with Nova Scotia's minister of labour on Tuesday.

"We feel like we've been pushed to this level but obviously we'd like to get a collective agreement," Rachel Brickner, who teaches political science and speaks for the faculty association, said Friday afternoon.

"We've said we'll meet at any time and we're waiting to hear back."

According to the Acadia Students' Union, 81.6 per cent of faculty association members voted, and 81 per cent of those who cast ballots voted in support of striking.

Both sides to meet on weekend

Jeff Banks, who sits on the negotiating team for the board of governors, confirmed both sides have agreed to meet with a labour conciliator on the weekend.

"The conciliator offered us the option to meet with a conciliation board. We actually welcomed that offer. We are very disappointed that [the union] has declined."

A conciliation board would bring both sides together and eventually report on whether an agreement might be struck. Its recommendations are not binding. A conciliator may suggest ideas or options for the parties' consideration. 

"However, the board can give opinions and recommendations and we feel that is important for us to reach a resolution," Banks said.

The university is hopeful the faculty will opt to use the conciliation board's services, as well as extend bargaining sessions beyond the weekend if meeting with a conciliator doesn't bring about an agreement, he said.

'Very stressful for students'

"That would help us avoid a strike at this time of year, which is really hard on our students.  A strike is never opportune but it is very stressful for the students at this time."

A walkout would affect 331 full-time and part-time professors and instructors, as well as library staff and archivists. It would be the third strike at the school in 13 years.

The faculty association wants a commitment from the university to expand the number of tenure-track teaching positions from about 150 to 182, and to fundraise for a child-care centre for staff, students and the community.

The association and Acadia University's board of governors have been trying to reach a new collective agreement since March.

Brickner said they've met with a conciliator and representatives for the university's board of governors three times. The last meeting was Nov. 16, two days after the association set a strike deadline.

"We're willing to negotiate, and what we need though is for the board to be willing to negotiate as well and so far they've refused to do that," she said. 

Competitive pay

But Banks disputed that the board of governors is immovable.

"The university is getting painted as intransigent and we're not. We're still trying to negotiate … an affordable and sustainable collective agreement."

Brickner said faculty have a number of concerns.

"We want to restore a vibrant tenure-stream complement, we want to make sure our faculty are paid competitively at the regional level," Brickner said, adding "it's really important to make sure we've received a commitment to reach pay equity."

There were strikes at Acadia in 2004 and 2007.

With files from Susan Bradley