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CAUT Bulletin Archives

March 2000

UCCB Talks Break Down

Conciliation fails — government appoints mediator.

Conciliation talks at the University College of Cape Breton failed March 8 when the administration broke off negotiations. The government responded by appointing a mediator — a step supported by the faculty association to help end the strike and lock out as quickly as possible, and allow students to get back to the classroom.

The 115 members of the Faculty Association of University Teachers have been on strike since February 11.

Talks failed over both monetary and non-monetary issues. The university tabled unacceptable articles on working conditions involving job security, and promotion and tenure, and tabled a monetary package which faculty association president Michael Manson called "grossly inadequate."

Manson said if the association had accepted the employer's most recent salary offer, it would have left the faculty, librarians, lab instructors and specialists at UCCB some 30 per cent below the provincial average by the end of the contract.

"The association has made major concessions on working conditions during conciliation over the last four days in order to move this process to a resolution. But the administration's most recent salary offer is an insult to the members," he said.

"At this rate the possibility of achieving parity even by the end of the next contract has disappeared."

The UCCB faculty members haven't had a wage increase since 1989 and have been negotiating for almost four years. After negotiations reached an impasse in mid-January, the academic staff voted 97 per cent for a strike.

"The members of the association went on strike to preserve the quality of education at UCCB. The employer's last salary offer and their refusal to discuss the outstanding working conditions are a clear message to the people of Cape Breton of the employer's lack of concern for the quality of education at UCCB," Manson said. "Unless the employer has a change of heart, the consequences of their actions will be devastating not only to the students who are now faced with the possibility of losing their year, but also to the future of UCCB and Cape Breton."

Faculty associations from across Canada have rallied behind their colleagues at UCCB. Messages of support and financial assistance have flooded into the strike headquarters in Sydney.

The CAUT Defence Fund has arranged two visits from member associations to show solidarity on the picket lines.

CAUT president Bill Graham said the support for the UCCB faculty association indicates that all CAUT members recognize the significance of this strike. "It is about winning fair wage increases for the most poorly paid faculty in the country and winning assurances of academic freedom and due process that are commonplace at virtually every other Canadian university," Graham said.

Neil Tudiver, CAUT's chief negotiations officer who has been assisting the faculty association in bargaining, marvels at the breadth of community support and at the solidarity of the membership. "After four weeks on the line, the members are more committed than ever to achieving a just and equitable settlement," Tudiver said. " Support from the community is unlike anything I have ever seen."