Members of the Mount Allison Faculty Association (MAFA) went on strike Jan. 21, for the second time since 1992. The two-week strike in 1992 was about faculty wanting to protect sabbaticals, avoiding a salary cut, and opposing mandatory retirement.
This time, the central issue is salaries. Striking faculty members are seeking salary scale parity with other small Canadian universities. Currently, Mount Allison salaries rank 20th among 23 comparable institutions. The faculty association is looking to move into the upper half of the scale, while the employer's offer would amount to a negligible change.
"MAFA deferred salary demands in the early 1990s while the university was facing financial difficulty, but now the administration needs to make adjustment of the salary scales a priority," said George De Benedetti, President of MAFA. "In recent years the portion of the budget allocated to academic salaries has been falling while enrollment, tuition fees, and spending on physical renovations and on administration have increased."
Negotiations began in June 1998 and, after more than forty negotiating sessions, proceeded through the provincial conciliation process in December. However, that process failed to resolve salaries or a number of other issues.
"Support for the strike was very high with 85% of the bargaining unit voting to strike, and the striking members remain strongly committed even though the strike is now in its third week," said De Benedetti.
During the first two weeks, strikers were joined by colleagues from across the country, including CAUT President Bill Graham and Vice President Tom Booth, in several shows of solidarity.
At press time, New Brunswick's Minister of Labour had appointed Douglas Stanley as mediator in the dispute. He will attempt to bring the two sides together, but he has no authority to impose a settlement.