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From today’s Gleaner:

March 12, 2010

Province taking sides?

Re: Contract talks between faculty and the University of New Brunswick

The Federation of New Brunswick Faculty Associations is very concerned by the provincial government’s irregular intervention in the labour negotiations taking place at the University of New Brunswick between the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers (AUNBT) and the university administration.

On Feb. 18, the provincial government declared it would appoint a conciliation board to assess the unresolved items of negotiation between AUNBT and UNB.

This is an extremely rare intervention, one which, until 2008 at the Université de Moncton, had not occurred in 40 years.

The appointment of a conciliation board effectively short circuits the collective bargaining process, causing delays that are calculated to weaken AUNBT’s ability to negotiate efficiently on behalf of its members, and all but disqualifying AUNBT’s right to strike under the Industrial Relations Act.

It should be noted that this sort of intervention does not occur anywhere else in our country.

That the government has chosen to use this tactic for the second time in two years indicates a disturbing trend.

It raises very serious questions about the Liberal government’s commitment to the autonomy of universities, to the collective bargaining process, and more generally, to the democratic rights of workers.

Indeed, if the Graham government is willing to attack its universities in this manner, one can only assume that other sectors will be next.

It is unfortunate that the government has found a way to alienate yet another constituency, and this time by assaulting one of the fundamental features of labour relations in Western democracies: the right to strike.

Academic staff do not strike lightly, and only when all other means have been exhausted. But the possibility of striking is important leverage in the process of negotiating. By impeding faculty associations in this way, the provincial government is effectively taking sides in internal matters.

Linda Lequin
The Federation of New Brunswick Faculty Associations


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