Nova Scotia

Cape Breton University faculty may take job action if contract rejected

The Cape Breton University Faculty Association is preparing for possible job action, but is still hopeful a proposed collective agreement will be ratified next week.

'We're very hopeful that the board of governors will do what's best,' spokesman says

Cape Breton University's board of governors still must vote on the proposed collective agreement. (George Mortimer/CBC)

Unionized faculty at Cape Breton University are being warned they may have to take job action if the school's board of governors fails to ratify a proposed contract.

The Cape Breton University Faculty Association has already ratified the three-year collective agreement reached in October, but the deal has yet to go before the board of governors for approval. That is set for Dec. 9.

The union has been contacting its members and informing them that contingency plans are being made if the board rejects the contract.

Chester Pyne, chairman of the union's strike action committee, said in an email that members are being asked for contact information should the Sydney university freeze their email accounts if there's job action.

'Do what's best for the university'

They're also being asked to pick their preferred time of day for picket duty.

"We have to talk about all scenarios," union spokesman Andrew Reynolds said Wednesday. "But we're very hopeful that the board of governors will do what's best for the university and just move things forward."

The faculty association represents 145 professors, librarians, archivists, lab instructors, nursing practice educators and research chairs. They have been without a contract since June 30. 

The union ratified the collective agreement on Nov. 3, with 92 per cent of members voting in favour. 

President suspended

However, recent action by the board has cast doubt on whether it will accept the contract.

Earlier this month, the board put university president David Wheeler on leave of absence pending the results of an independent investigation regarding what it called governance issues.

Wheeler's lawyer, Ray Larkin, said in a statement the investigation is related to recent labour negotiations at the university.

Cape Breton University president David Wheeler is on a leave of absence, which his lawyer says is connected to labour negotiations. (CBC)

Reynolds said he couldn't comment on any possible connection between the negotiations and Wheeler's suspension.

"I would just reiterate that we would hope that the university needs to move forward," he said.

"We've negotiated in good faith to reach a collective agreement, and we think it's time that we wrapped this up and get back to work."

The university and the students' union declined comment.

A strike vote by the union's membership in August received 90 per cent support.

If the board of governors rejects the collective agreement, a mediator appointed by the provincial government would file a conciliation report, Reynolds said. After a two-week waiting period, the union could call a strike with 48 hours' notice.