As you may have heard, after many months of failed negotiations between Mount Allison and its faculty association (MAFA), the Government of New Brunswick has appointed a conciliation board to try to moderate the contentious collective bargaining process. This action, extremely rare in Canada, provides students the benefit of eliminating the possibility of a strike or lock-out until after the conciliation board has filed its report. Some, including MAFA president Richard Hudson have publically criticized the appointment of the board as a "waste of time and money". As of December 9th, the parties had not yet met but had tentative dates planned.
The final report of the conciliation board is due back to the Minister of Post-Secondary Education has been extended from the 14 days to be due back in six weeks' time, on January 31, 2011 "at the latest". That is a "firm date" yet somehow has "obvious leeway" if both parties are only "days away" from reaching an agreement. This wording has worried some, including Dennis Desroches, President of the Federation of New Brunswick Faculty Associations (FNBFA) that this could lead to an indefinite period. UNB's conciliation board has sat for over nine months without submitting a report.
It is only after the board submits the report, in fact seven days after the Minister releases it, that parties will be in a legal position to strike or lock-out. As a student, I am obviously in favor of a process that does not risk disruptions to the school year. Clearly the school's support of the board's appointment demonstrates that it too does not want any disruptions (which is obviously in its but also students' best interest). Even Hudson says "It's a mistake to end up in a strike," but from his statements he clearly would rather be able to threaten one in order to have leverage in the negotiation process. Hopefully a restful winter break will help both sides recover from months of apparently fruitless negotiations and they will be able to come to a agreement that is mutally acceptable without having to resort to any disruptions to the Winter term.
I've included published information many sources on the negotiations below for further details. Information is also available directly from Mount Allison and MAFA.
From FNBFA: "The Future of NB Universities Pitted against Bureaucratic Convenience" and a similar piece in French: "Université : pour des ententes négociées, justes et équitables"
From the Telegraph Journal: "Mount A faculty wants province to stay out of talks"
From the Canadian Association of University Teachers: "Mount Allison Talks on Hold, Conciliation Board Appointed"
From Mount Allison: "Mount Allison welcomes next phase of collective bargaining"
From MAFA: "MAFA Reaction to Minister Coulombe's action"