Brandon faculty hit the picket lines
By BECKY SOMERVILLE
While faculty members at the University of Manitoba narrowly averted a strike this weekend, Brandon University faculty members hit the picket line yesterday morning.
The University of Manitoba's administration and its faculty association reached a tentative agreement Sunday, after compromising on issues of mandatory retirement and salaries, said Bob Armstrong, director of public affairs at the University of Manitoba.
Meanwhile, the Brandon University Faculty Association walked off the job, despite talks pending at the negotiation table.
Pat Carrabre, VP-academic and research at the University of Brandon, said both sides agreed to seek the service of a mediator after talks with a conciliator failed last week. The mediator is to deliver a recommendation by noon on Friday.
Carrabre said it made little sense BUFA opted to strike when mediation was to begin today. "Quite unexplainably the faculty association decided to go out on strike anyway," he said. "The only people who are hurting are the students, which seems really unfair."
Bruce Forrest, a negotiator for BUFA, said the association was justified in walking off the job prior to mediations. "We had a mandate from the membership that if an agreement wasn't made we would strike."
Carrabre said the major area of conflict concerned salary. Faculty were dissatisfied because the university lacks an incremental grid which recognizes career progress through salary increases.
The university offered BUFA a three-year contract which would include increments and a salary increase of over 12 per cent, Carrabre said. He added BUFA rejected the offer and is asking for a 35 per cent increase over five years.
"If we just tried to make up that type of request we would have to double tuition in five years," Carrabre said.
Forest explained BUFA was concerned with fairness among the ranks of faculty because they have not been receiving normal service increments.
"It's inequalities like that which we are trying to address," he said. "Nobody can get to the top because we've stopped climbing."
BUFA wants to send a message to administration because they feel they are not being taken seriously and administration has not moved on their salary recommendations, Forest said.
"Hopefully a settlement will be reached soon," he added.
Brandon University Students' Council President Michael Elves said students are very supportive of BUFA and feel the strike was necessary in order to retain some of the quality professors at the university.
"Today our students' union voted to support the faculty association in the negotiation process," Elves said. He added while students seem to be using their time off wisely, hopefully the strike will not last long.
Elves said if administration threatens to finance BUFA's salaries through increased tuition, BUSC would fight them on it. "It works really well as a scare tactic."
Students feel BUFA is justified in asking for a salary increase and some are showing their support by walking the picket lines, Elves said.
"We feel that [BUFA] obviously have some legs to stand on in terms of what they're asking for."