A three-week strike by the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers has ended with members voting overwhelmingly to accept a tentative deal hammered out with administrators in the last days of January.
About 550 academic staff hit the picket line Jan. 13 with wages the key issue in the dispute. The university administration served the union with a lockout notice a day later.
AUNBT had sought an increase to bring salary levels in line with universities of comparable size across the country.
Administrators responded with a financial offer that failed to meet that goal.
After a two-week stalemate, the provincial government intervened, ordering both sides back to the bargaining table on Jan. 29, alongside special mediator Brian Keller, an Ontario-based labour law expert who was the joint choice of the parties.
Two days of talks were enough to bridge the wide gap with a resulting three-year deal announced Jan. 30 calling for a 2.5 per cent salary increase in each of the first two years. Further wage adjustment in the third year and any other outstanding issues will be decided through a “limited arbitration process within the next six months,” according to an AUNBT news release.
Association president Miriam Jones said that while the agreement leaves some financial terms for later determination, the main goal of recognizing comparability was achieved.
“We wanted language around comparability and we do have that now, after well over a year of sometimes difficult work by our bargaining team. If nothing else, I think we can call it a win because of that. We’re very pleased with the tentative agreement,” she said.
Classes for the university’s 9,200 students resumed immediately, while AUNBT conducted ratification votes across four campuses during the first week of February. Jones said 90 per cent of members who voted were in favour of acceptance.
UNB has cancelled the winter reading week in an effort to allow students to catch up with missed classes and course content.
As well, the board of governors, while not considering “a reduction in tuition fees as a result of the strike,” has agreed to distribute “the net funds saved during our recent labour disruption to students in rec-ognition of the hardships and inconvenience caused them,” according the university’s web site. “It is estimated that full-time registered undergraduate and graduate students should expect to receive a lump sum credit on their account in excess of $200 with a lesser amount for part-time students. We anticipate the funds will be credited to student accounts towards the end of March.”
The University of New Brunswick is the principal regional university with the AUNBT representing more than 800 regular and contract academic staff at campuses in Fredericton, Saint John, Moncton and Bathurst. This is the first time academic staff at UNB have gone on strike.