Education featured Labour

Dalhousie administrative and technical workers ready to strike to protect pension plan

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Dalhousie University is once again trying to bully workers into surrendering parts of their retirement benefits.

Approximately 844 NSGEU members who work at Dalhousie University in administrative and technical support bargaining unit roles will be in a legal strike position on Friday April 16. This includes workers at the Agricultural College locations in Truro and New Brunswick. 

“This employer is playing hardball and risking further disruption to Dal students’ already tumultuous academic year by trying to effectively steal from our members’ pension plan,” said NSGEU President Jason MacLean in a media release

“The last thing our members want after the year we have all been through collectively is to have to strike, but the employer is forcing them to take this action to try and protect their retirement benefits,” MacLean says. 

Meanwhile Dalhousie spokeswoman Janet Bryson told the Chronicle Herald in an email that the university wants to get back to the bargaining table and is confident an agreement can be reached.

The scenario that is unfolding is similar to the one that played out last fall when the Board of Governors tried to force members of the Dalhousie Faculty Association (DFA) into accepting major changes to the structure of its pension plan. 

Then too the university was crying poor and blaming the pandemic, a stance that became untenable when enrollment was shown to be up compared to prior years.

And then too the employer showed little concern for students, who now once again face an uncertain future.

Pensions reflect the give and take of prior collective bargaining, and union members have little appetite for surrendering hard-won retirement benefits.

“Administration at Dalhousie has been trying to weaken the employer-sponsored pension plan for more than 20 years. Members are required to pay 6% of their pay toward Dal pension premiums and the employer is responsible for the investment and funding of the Plan. That is the agreement our members have with the employer and that is the agreement we want them to uphold,” the NSGEU press release states.  

Why Dalhousie continues to push its demands is not clear. Not only is student enrollment up, last fiscal year Dalhousie recorded its largest Operating-Fund surplus in seventeen years, nearly $39.5 million. As well, the provincial government provided Dal with $9.5 million in extra funding to address COVID-related expenses, the NSGEU press release points out. 

“Using COVID as an excuse to strip retirement benefits from members during a pandemic is a new low for any employer. These members – and the students at Dal – deserve much better than this,” said MacLean in the media release. 

Dave Westwood, president of the Dalhousie Faculty Association encourages faculty to stand and walk the line with the striking employees. 

“These workers are our friends, colleagues, and neighbours, and we were very nearly in the same position earlier this year,” he writes in a letter to DFA members. 

Click here to send a message in support of the affected workers to Dalhousie’s President, Chancellor and Chair of the Board of Governors, as well as various political leaders.

See also: Dalhousie’s hard line bargaining stance proves futile but harms staff and students

Check out our new community calendar!

With a special thanks to our generous donors who make publication of the Nova Scotia Advocate possible.

Subscribe to the Nova Scotia Advocate weekly digest and never miss an article again. It’s free!