I think students at Mount Allison University are in for a faculty strike this semester.
The vote was close. After two days of debate, the faculty union voted 55 per cent in favour of rejecting the conciliation board’s report yesterday. Defeating the report by such a slim margin, only a day after the union entered the legal position to hold a strike vote among its members shows division within the union that may be difficult to overcome.
That same narrow margin of victory is sure to deeply irritate the university’s bargaining team who were quick to accept the board’s report and end the debate on Feb. 1, only a day after the report was released.
The key points of debate are predictable: money and trust. The release from the bargaining unit yesterday showed that part-time faculty are almost entirely ignored in the report and many faculty distrust the entire purpose of having a conciliatory board, saying it gets in the way of “free collective bargaining.”
When these kinds of debates become this heated and divided, and when trust becomes involved, people have a tendency to become more entrenched in their respective positions, less likely to evolve as bargaining gets increasingly tense.
While faculty association president Rick Hudson said in a release, “It is our intention to reach an agreement through free collective bargaining so that classes will not be affected,” I’m not so sure students should jump onboard the optimism train. It might be wise for students to brace themselves for the worst.
In the meantime, it’s not too late to change the tide. Both sides will return to the bargaining table, but to avert a strike, clear heads must prevail. The university may need to realize that attracting high-quality faculty may take more money than they wish it did. Faculty may have to realize that working at a small liberal arts university is not the way to wealth and fame. Compromise is the inevitable result of this argument, and both sides would do well to find that compromise soon.