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Acadia University in 14-day countdown to potential strike or lockout

by Robert Devet

Acadia University in 14-day countdown to potential strike or lockout

KJIPUKTUK, HALIFAX - Last Friday's conciliation talks between the Acadia University Faculty Association (AUFA) and the university's Board of Governors once again failed to produce a collective agreement.

This happened even though the sides reached agreement on wages and the number of permanent positions, two main points of contention.

A 14-day countdown to a potential strike or lock-out begins on Tuesday. Last week faculty overwhelmingly rejected the Board of Governors' earlier offer.

“In terms of total cost we were on the same page as the Board,” Andrew Biro, spokesperson for the AUFA tells the Halifax Media Co-op. “But the Board's offer was dependent on our acceptance of a number of non-financial conditions.”

The two sides settled on the number of permanent teaching positions that the university should support. 

However, the Board wants to renege on its commitment if enrollment were to decrease by 2017. Yet enrollment numbers are entirely out of AUFA's control.

“If enrollment is even a little bit less, than that agreement would evaporate,” Biro says.

And secondly, the Board wants to take the number of tenure track and permanent positions out of the collective agreement.

Making this item non-negotiable in the future is a non-starter, says Biro. The AUFA believes that the number of permanent faculty directly speaks to the quality of education offered at the Wolfville university.

On the issue of  pensions too the Board is setting a condition that faculty cannot accept.

Pension reform discussions have been ongoing, Biro explains. Not just with the faculty association, but also with members of the SEIU local who represent the administrative support staff, and a group of non-unionized employees as well.

“Now the Board's offer on pensions is contingent on a particular proposal to reform the pension plan being accepted and approved by all pension members by the end of February,” says Biro, “even though we can't control how other people would vote. Everybody would vote individually on this.”

The clock is ticking.

“It's very frustrating,” says Biro. The Board made an offer that pretty well matches the compromises we put on the table, but they attached conditions that we just can't accept.”

Even more frustrating because Biro thinks that the AUFA has gone out of its way to meet the university's demands.

We had close to a salary freeze over the last contract, and increases that are agreed on for the next collective agreement are well below projected cost of living increases, Biro points out.

In terms of permanent positions, the Board states in a press release that it offered to take number of tenure track faculty members from 144 today to 152 by the end of the new agreement.

Biro counters that these positions actually decreased from 182 to 144 over the last five years.

Biro, who says that most students he talks to seem supportive of faculty, fervently hopes that a strike or lockout can be prevented.

“Our team is ready and willing to go back to the table if only the Board removes those conditions. Then it should pretty well be a slam dunk,” he says.

See also: Acadia University faculty rejects latest contract proposal


Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert





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