Members of the Acadia University Faculty Association on strike, classes canceled

Acadia University’s 350 professors, librarians, archivists and instructors are on strike this morning after rejecting a contract offer from the university late Monday night.

The Acadia University Faculty Association said on Twitter late Monday evening that after presenting a “comprehensive offer” to the university’s bargaining team on Friday afternoon, the university’s response on Sunday was that she would not make a counter-offer at that time.

The union said that when an offer finally arrived on Monday afternoon, it was “a small counter-offer which does not reflect serious engagement with AUFA’s proposals”.

The union said the offer received did not include a commitment to increase the number of full professors, would change the professors considered part of the full-time group by including deans who do not teach and has a freeze on salaries for the first one year before increases of 1%, 1% and 1.5% over the duration of the four-year contract.

The offer also proposes a process to improve equity and diversity that is “too complex and unworkable”, the union said.

The university said the union’s proposal was too costly and would add millions to its budget.

In a post on his website at 7 a.m.the university announced the cancellation of classes

Provost’s Student Post and Vice President Academic Dale Keefe said other campus operations are continuing and the university will take “all reasonable steps to support you during this time, including providing services and resources. basic”.

Dale Keefe, Provost and Vice President Academic of Acadia University, stands on the Wolfville campus on Tuesday, February 1, 2022. – Ian Fairclough

He said that “although there is currently disagreement over the content of the final collective agreement, both parties ultimately want what is best for students. Everyone is committed to ensuring that students have the best college experience when the labor disruption ends.

Keefe asked students to “please take this time to pursue your education and take care of yourself. The strike will eventually end.

AUFA spokesman Jon Saklofske said on Tuesday morning that there were a number of sticking points, including improved working conditions and stability for part-time teachers, more teachers on full-time to keep class sizes small at a time when the university is trying to increase enrollment, and commit to hiring a group of Indigenous employees.

He said union members were in good spirits as they prepared to start picketing in -14C on Monday morning.

He said the union was asking for wage increases below the cost of living.

“We know we’ll have to bargain down a bit, but at the same time, committing to salaries with basic cost-of-living increases, will keep Acadia attractive, so we’re hiring Indigenous scholars or trying to advance the academic mission of the university and be competitive in the region.

Keefe said in an interview Tuesday morning that there were no new talks planned, but he is optimistic that a new agreement can be reached soon.

“I’m sure over the next few days both sides will come back to the table and come to an agreement,” he said. “I don’t know an exact timetable at the moment, but we will continue to work and get an agreement as soon as possible.”

He said he would not comment on the union’s assertion that there is financial room in Acadia’s budget for its proposals.

“We’ll leave that for the negotiations, but we have more in common, so I think it’s important that we focus on where we have agreement, where we want to work together.”

The conciliator is still working with the union and the university as they try to come to an agreement.

Both parties say they know the students are stressed by the labor dispute. Saklofske said he told his students to use the time to catch up on reading and studying, but faculty members were trying to help their long-term programs, as well as prospective students. They were supportive, he said.

Keefe said the two years have already been difficult for students with the pandemic and restrictions, “so right now our focus is on making sure students have the support they need to get them through.” the next days. It’s temporary, we’ll be fine soon.”

Georgia Saleski, vice president of student life for the Acadia Students’ Union, said the past two weeks have been “chaotic” from a student perspective, with a return to in-person classes last week.

“It was front and center on the minds of students at that time, then COVID-19 and health risks and students who wanted to make sure they were safe and deal with the continued pandemic anxiety,” she said. “It put us in a position where we were already generally feeling exhausted and a bit wary about where things were going.”

She said the students knew when they returned from their Christmas break that negotiations would be underway.

“I think I speak for all students when I say we’re disappointed that a deal hasn’t been reached,” she said. “I didn’t expect it to go one way or the other. We were really hoping until this morning that there would be some kind of agreement.

She said the student union does not choose sides in a labor dispute and prioritizes supporting students. Even if it did, it would require a vote in the student representative council.

Saleski said students — especially those set to graduate this spring — fear the term will be lost.

“A lot of students try to follow up and make sure they don’t lose credit, whether it’s a required or required course,” she said. “But I hope the strike doesn’t last that long, and even if it does, there will be a quick adjustment to what we’ve been missing out on and an acceleration to make sure students get those requirements. educational to complete the term. ”

Union members have been without a contract since last June.

On November 2, the university withdrew from the bargaining table, declaring an impasse and requesting conciliation. This process in December failed.

The union signed its last contract in 2017. Last-minute talks resulted in an agreement on the eve of a faculty walkout on November 27 of the same year.

Faculty members went on strike twice, in 2004 and 2007. Both work stoppages lasted about three weeks.

Andrew B. Reiter