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Dalhousie University Board of Governors raises another obstacle in contract talks with faculty

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Nothing comes easy in the collective bargaining between the Dalhousie Faculty Association (DFA) and the Dalhousie Board of Governors (BoG).

Well, that tradition continues, as the BoG announced it is willing to sign off on all but one of the Conciliation Board recommendations. That one issue, not a biggie in the grand scheme of things, affects at what point in time instructors qualify for educational leave. 

It should be noted though that the DFA for its part accepted the recommendations, contingent on the BoG doing the same.

The BoG has asked Peter Lloyd, the original conciliator, to revisit that issue, likely in early January.

“Both parties have agreed there won’t be a lockout or strike until discussion has resumed and we’re confident that a settlement can be reached early in the new year,” the BoG writes in a brief email update to Dalhousie students, faculty and staff.

David Westwood, president of the DFA, is taken aback. The conciliation board process led to a successful resolution of major differences around pensions, salaries, and so on. In comparison the current stumbling block seems minor, he says.

“We’ve actually made a lot of progress since the three members of the conciliation board stepped in. For the first time we were able to discuss matters in a reasonable way. That hadn’t happened before that point. I assumed that it was going to be a done deal, because we were making good progress,” says Westwood. 

That the two parties are now agreeing on most issues is no small feat. In October, prior to the conciliation board stepping in, the parties were miles apart. The BoG offered a three year deal with a zero percent wage increase each year. The Board was also asking for very significant concessions to the Dalhousie Pension Plan. In response, more than 90% of Dalhousie professors, instructors, librarians and professional counsellors said “yes” to strike action.

With the pension issue resolved, much along the lines of the DFA proposal, and with a compromise on yearly salary increments, what is it that the Board claims it cannot live with?

At the university both permanent instructors and professors are entitled to educational leave or sabbaticals every seven years, Westwood explains. Whereas the years professors worked in limited term appointments are counted, this is not the case for instructors. During the conciliation process the three members of the conciliation board sided with the union.

“When instructors qualify for educational leave has been an ongoing source of frustration. Some of these instructors have been working for the university for well over 10 years before they get a permanent position. They want those years to count and take an educational leave to upgrade their classes, something that is difficult to do when engaged in full time teaching. These educational leaves are as much in the university’s interest,” says Westwood.

“We’ve accepted what the conciliation board recommended, even though the monetary stuff was driven down by the BoG’s unreasonably low numbers. So we are looking to resolve this, we’re hoping we can reach a reasonable end to this quickly and just be done with it,” Westwood says.

“So many students had a terrible experience in the fall, and now the uncertainties will continue to linger. And our members are not getting much of a break, because they’re all busy prepping for the winter term, but some kind of peace of mind on this issue would have been nice.”

See also: Dalhousie Faculty Association receives huge strike mandate as it heads into conciliation

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