CBU-CBU Faculty Association (CBUFA) appoint conciliation officer
Cape Breton University (CBU) and the CBU Faculty Association (CBUFA) have mutually agreed to appoint a conciliation officer in efforts to mediate stalled negotiations for a new collective agreement.
A Conciliation Officer is a provincially appointed person familiar with labour law appointed by the Minster of Labour when a collective bargaining stalls between an employer and employee union.
CBUFA is the union that represents faculty, librarians, archivists, lab instructors, writing center advisors, nursing practice educators and research chairs at CBU. The union is currently presided by Dr. Adango Miadonye, a professor of Chemical Engineering and industrial chemistry at CBU.
The previous agreement between CBU and CBUFA expired on June 30th, 2022, and negotiations for a new agreement have been ongoing since July 2022. The bargaining process which began on July 8th, has been unable to produce a collective agreement between the two sides thus far.
A collective agreement is a written contract between the university and a union (in this case CBU Faculty Association) outlining various terms and conditions for employees within the union. The last collective agreement with CBUFA was signed in June 2019.
CBUFA, without divulging specifics, stated that one of the agenda's proposed by CBU will increase the existing workload on the current staff, hinder their research and development capabilities and reduce job security. Furthermore, the proposal was struck down by 92% of their members when put to vote.
“According to the labour law. You need 50 + 1% to support your team at the table. But we have 90-92%,” said Miadonye, referring to the strike vote.
The bargaining process, according to CBUFA officials, is still in the primary stages. Discussion regarding length of the collective, renumeration of employees are yet to be addressed.
“We have made maybe 40% progress in the bargaining process,” said Miadonye.
Cost of living, inflation, and job security are major concerns put forward by CBUFA officials. Although newer staff was hired over the summer, their job security is still of much concern to the union and its members.
“Faculty is concerned about cost of living and inflation and the pressures on salaries, so that's an issue. And then the university is concerned about the Post-Baccalaureate programs and programs that have what they consider to be, you know, potentially a loss of student,” said Dr. Peter MacIntyre, communications officer for CBUFA.
MacIntyre believes that CBU is worried that the interest in Post-Baccalaureate among International students could diminish suddenly and hurt the University’s revenue, stating the reduction of students from Saudi over the years. However, MacIntyre believers, the key to retaining students is by providing quality education that attracts international students regularly.
“A concern for the university is that some of the, large growth that we've had in international students will just one day disappear. The solution to that is to have high quality programs that are in demand from people around the world. And that's our goal. It is to have the faculty in place who can offer those programs and attract students to Cape Breton for the long term,” said MacIntyre.
Job security is another issue the CBUFA intends to tackle with a new collective agreement. The faculty has grown from 160 members to 210 with the new hires made in the summer of 2022.
“That's a substantial growth in a very short time, so we have a lot of new members, so it's not hiring new members. It is how stable those positions are. Are those people easily fired?” says MacIntyre.
The experience required to qualify for a faculty position is at least 10 years; requiring a four-year bachelor's degree, 2 year's master's degree and a Ph.D. to be eligible. Limited job opportunities add to the struggle.
“Faculty positions are not like a lot of other jobs in the in a couple of senses. One is it takes about 10 years to qualify for one. We need a four-year undergraduate degree, two years Masters, four years PhD. That is ten years. Plus, many of them have two years faculty, postdoctoral positions, and fellowships. And so, it can take an awfully long time to become qualified to be a university professor.So that is one thing. There is also a limited number of universities Canada has in the neighborhood of 65 universities, so there is not a lot of job opportunities,” detailed MacIntyre.
MacIntyre stresses that job security will help bring focus to the faculty to perform better and conduct research rather than stressing over finding a new job every other year.
MacIntyre opines that the University intends to hire faculty just to teach courses. He believes this strategy will decrease research output, thereby downgrading quality of programs. CBUFA’s agreement is based on faculty’s ability to ‘teach, research and service’ and this forms the foundation for a tenure or promotions. The union believes that CBU’s proposal will collapse that structure thereby deteriorating the faculty’s development and research in universities.
“Traditionally, faculty have had three roles; teaching, research, and service, and that's the core of our collective agreement is all structured around faculty doing all three of those things. When we get evaluated. For promotion for tenure, we are evaluated in all three of those dimensions. And the University's proposal would blow up that job, create a different type of job that does not exist anywhere else in Canada, under terms that make it very easy to get rid,” explained MacIntyre.
CBU however, in their release, stated that the "Teaching Scholar" proposal put forward by the University intends to improve the overall student experience and provide improved job stability to the faculty. Furthermore, CBU refutes the unions claims with promises of” continuity of faculty staffing,” ”enhanced job security to current CBUFA members” and ”increased research capacity,” among others. A copy of CBU’s” teaching scholar proposal” is available for review here.
The first collective agreement between CBU and CBUFA was signed in 2000. The then University College of Cape Breton (UCCB) did not have an agreement with the faculty. Negotiations between the administration failed to reach a consensus, forcing the services of a conciliation officer. As conciliation efforts were not fruitful, the staff gave a strike notice during the spring of 2000 and eventually, went on strike for almost five weeks.
“So back in 2000. Like I said, we didn't have a collective agreement, so there was nothing in place and at the time we were the University College of Cape Breton, right? And so, like I said, over a period of three years, the negotiating team for the association and for the employer hammered out a deal they didn't finish, they didn't get to all of the things. And so, with the help of a provincial conciliator, they tried to reach a deal that didn't work, and then the faculty just before the Spring break gave notice that it was going to go on strike and then that strike lasted 5 1/2 weeks,” recalls MacIntyre.
However, the faculty association hopes the current scenario will not warrant a strike call and differences can be solved amicably. At the time of drafting this article, negotiations are slated to begin on December 13th and 14th according to CBU’s official release posted on the website.
Miadonye, Adango: Interview with Levin Alex
MacIntyre, Peter: Interview with Levin Alex