The 1997-1998 academic year is characterized by intense negotiations and the threat of labour action at many university campuses across the country. This report features a successful negotiation at Trent University -- whose faculty walked out on strike two years ago; a settlement at Acadia University -- which teetered on the brink of a strike within the last month; and an update about Dalhousie University -- whose members have just given their association a strike mandate.
Dalhousie Faculty Give Green Light for Strike
Faculty at Dalhousie University have given their association a strong mandate to take strike action if necessary. Out of a bargaining unit of 724 members, 586 members (81 per cent) participated in the strike vote. Ninety-four per cent voted in favour of strike action if necessary.
The two main issues outstanding relate to complement reduction and salaries. In order to reduce the number of faculty employed at Dalhousie through attrition, the university president has not replaced 113 of the faculty who have retired or left the university over the past 10 years. This has resulted in a 15 per cent reduction in the number of faculty since 1987.
Over the same period, there has been a 15 per cent increase in the student population -- class size has increased, faculty workload has increased, while student access to their professors has declined.
The faculty want to ensure full replacement of those retiring or leaving during the course of the new contract. The major issue for teachers at Dalhousie is to safeguard, rather than compromise, the quality of education.
Faculty salaries at Dalhousie University are significantly lower than those at comparable universities across Canada. Faculty have lost ground because of provincial salary freezes and rollbacks over the last five years. Faculty aim to reduce the 15 per cent gap between salaries at Dalhousie and comparable institutions.
Ismet Ugursal, faculty association president, says teachers at Dalhousie are concerned about the quality of education and fear that without action now the university will become less competitive in attracting and retaining both faculty and students. This will have an adverse impact on the future health of the university.
The administration and the association met with a conciliator on Feb. 19 and 20. The faculty voted on the administration's latest offer on Mar. 3. The result was a very decided rejection of the board's position on complement and salaries. The conciliator will submit a report based on the results of that vote and the faculty will be in a strike position two weeks after the conciliator submits the report.
Acadia Faculty Ratify 9th Collective Agreement
At a special meeting on Feb. 17 the Acadia University Faculty Association (AUFA) voted by large majority in favour of ratifying the 9th collective agreement with the board of governors.
Paul Hobson, AUFA chief negotiator gave this summary of the new contract: "The new agreement builds upon the strengths of the former agreement. Issues of academic freedom and university governance on which this negotiation stalled for so long were finally resolved following the resounding strike vote from the membership on Feb. 3. The salary settlement is comparable to that at sister institutions. The issue that remains, however, is 'Why did the campus have to be put through such a protracted and acrimonious process'?"
AUFA President, Jim Sacouman, added: "Through tremendous solidarity and hard work, we have finally achieved a fair and decent contract. Our focus now is to ensure that never again will we be subjected to the senior administration's systematic campaign of abuse and misrepresentation. Led by the board's spokesperson, that campaign has seriously undermined the very credibility of Acadia as an institution committed to truthfulness and excellence. With or without the senior administration, we will reclaim our traditions of scholarly and teaching excellence and high-quality service to the surrounding
New Contract for Trent
The Trent University Faculty Association has ended a decade of conflict with the university administration over salaries and pension benefits. Association members voted Feb. 12 unanimously to endorse a negotiated salary settlement based on principles established during the 1996 round of negotiations. At that time, it was agreed that faculty at Trent would earn salaries equivalent to the average pay in Ontario universities.
For 1997-98, the salary parity adjustment means a 2.46 per cent increase in salary for faculty and academic librarians. A further adjustment for 1998-99 will be calculated in February 1999, after salary data for 1998-99 becomes available.
A framework agreement on pension and retirement issues has also been agreed upon in principle. Further legal and technical steps are required before the agreement is implemented in July 1998.
According to the faculty association, the agreement establishes a separate faculty pension plan, a resolution of the use of any pension surplus, and an end to the erosion of faculty pensions. Retirement income will be based on two per cent of final salary for each year of service, which is the formula foreseen in the agreement reached in 1987.
The faculty association ratified a three-year contract in December 1996, after a two-week strike. The association represents about 200 full-time faculty and academic librarians.