Memorial University’s Faculty Association (MUNFA) is officially on strike after reaching an impasse with the administration on January 29th- and despite some shock among students, Memorial is not the first Atlantic university to go on strike recently.
In 2022 and 2023, multiple university faculty unions across Atlantic Canada called for potential strike action for unresolved labour disputes.
Dalhousie University negotiations
In Halifax, Nova Scotia, Dalhousie’s University Faculty Association (DFA) conducted a strike vote in December after negotiations with their university administration failed.
According to the Dalhousie Gazette, 92.2% of DFA members voted to strike if an agreement could not be reached- comparable results to Memorial’s strike vote, resulting in 93.3% in favour of striking.
The issues brought up by the DFA (according to the bulletin released on January 13th) included:
- Salary increases are consistent with inflation.
- The development of a professoriate (tenure-track) stream to replace the instructor stream.
- University contributions to a fund for diversity hires.
- Measures to control the faculty’s workload/ensure adequate compensation for an overload.
The DFA reached a tentative agreement with the university in the last week of negotiations.
The Dalhousie Gazette also reported that Dalhousie’s administration proposed changes to the current ’90/10′ rule, which states that 10% of classes at the university can be taught by non-DFA contract/part-time lecturers, which would have increased this number.
However, this could hurt many employees by allowing lower pay and a lack of sustained job security. The DFA challenged this.
Dalhousie part-time/ contract worker strike
In October, Dalhousie’s CUPE 3912, the union representing part-time and contract workers, also went on a nearly month-long strike over contract duration and wage increases.
During this time, courses taught by CUPE members and online resources operated by CUPE workers were inaccessible. They reached a tentative agreement on November 12th, 2022.
Acadia University faculty strike
Faculty at Acadia University in Nova Scotia also went on strike in February 2022 following failed negotiation attempts.
According to CBC, the Acadia University Faculty Association (AUFA) asked for salary increases, improved hiring processes for a more diverse faculty, increased tenure-track faculty positions, and greater support for part-time/contract employees.
The strike ended in March with no agreement, and all outstanding issues were sent for arbitration under a mediator appointed by the Nova Scotia provincial government.
Students were compensated for the impact of this strike on their coursework, with domestic students receiving $600 and international students receiving $700.
University of Prince Edward Island
The University of Prince Edward Island also faced similar issues when the University of Prince Edward Island’s Faculty Association (UPEIFA) began discussions about new collective agreements in April 2022. The main issues are increased salaries, full-time faculty positions, mental health benefits, workload, and greater transparency.
At the request of the UPEIFA, the PEI Minister of Economic Growth, Bloyce Thompson, appointed a conciliator in August to make the negotiations process easier. Conciliators must file a report within ten days of the first meeting between the two parties, only after which a legal strike position is allowed.
However, the minister may choose to extend this deadline. Minister Thompson allowed the negotiation process to continue after the UPEIFA had declared an impasse and declared earlier this month that he would appoint a mediator after the failure in conciliation.
The UPEIFA alleges this is an unfair instance of government interference in the collective bargaining process and has secured funding from the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) Defence Fund to launch a legal challenge against the PEI government.
The president of the UPEIFA, Dr. Michael Arfken, commented in a UPEIFA blog post:
“As the conciliation process enters its fourth month of government intervention with no end in sight, it has become increasingly clear that the provincial government’s actions are substantially interfering in contract bargaining and creating the conditions for an extended labour dispute at UPEI.”
Strike looms at Saint Mary’s University
On January 28th, 2023, the Faculty Union at Saint Mary’s University (SMU) in Nova Scotia announced on Twitter that a strike date had been set for February 24th if no agreement is reached with the SMU admin.
The main issues members of Saint Mary’s University Faculty Association (SMUFU) advocate for are three-year faculty contracts with wages and health and wellness benefits.
In a piece in the Halifax Examiner, SMUFU VP Cathy Conrad writes:
“Things grew worse as the administration embarked on a series of cringe-worthy initiatives, including a widely mocked and expensive rebranding, childish lawsuits and grievances – one in which the administration wasted nearly $500,000 on a single football player’s eligibility – and bloating senior administration with several inessential positions. Indeed, a recent “Culture of Entitlement” report from the Association of Nova Scotia University Teachers (ANSUT) showed that the percentage of administrators at SMU has sky-rocketed. And despite the administration’s regular extolling of faculty’s work in their advertisements, reports to the community, and recruitment brochures, there has never seemed to be any resources left to invest in us.”
SMUFU Vice President Cathy Conrad
Faculty strike at Cape Breton University
The Cape Breton University Faculty Association (CBFA) went on strike on Friday, January 27th, after failed negotiations with the university over wage increases reflecting inflation and a lack of facilities and support to deal with the rapidly increasing enrollment of international students. While the union is seeking a 14% salary increase over two years, the university offers an increase of 8% over three years. Employees set up a picket line on Friday outside the university campus.
At Memorial, faculty started picketing preparations before today’s strike with support from the Memorial’s Students’ Union (MUNSU).
Picketing began Monday at 8 am at five locations on campus.