DFA negotiations: Thursday in review

Gazette LogoThe biggest issue of the Dalhousie faculty collective agreement negotiations could be taken off the table, possibly making a faculty strike unnecessary.

The government of Nova Scotia decided today to grant Dalhousie full and permanent solvency relief without requiring the university’s pension plan to switch to a jointly sponsored pension plan (JSPP).

The switch in pension plan governance and the possibility of making payments of up to $50 million per year has been the sticking point in negotiations so far. This development means that the polarizing issue could be taken off the table.

A media release from the DFA says that although the association gave their 48 hours notice of intent to strike on March 12 to the Ministry of Labour and Advanced Education early this afternoon, this announcement means hopefully the two sides can come to an agreement.

However, it is possible that the administration could insist on switching to a JSPP even without the threat of solvency payments driving the decision. In that case, a strike is still a definite possibility.

Karen Janigan, communications officer for the DFA, says the DFA withdrew their proposal for a JSPP around 3 p.m. today. She says the administration will let them know by noon tomorrow whether they will pursue the JSPP or not.

The DFA and the administration are still in negotiations today and tomorrow. Charles Crosby, a spokesperson for Dal administration, says he doesn’t know what effect the announcement will have on negotiations.

Both sides have been lobbying the government for months for this exemption. Dal’s pension plan is insolvent, meaning that if the university closed tomorrow it would not be able to pay all of its members. Because of that, the university would be required to make those $50 million solvency payments to make up the shortfall.

Barbara Jones-Gordon, executive director of labour services in the Department of Labour and Advanced Education, says the Cabinet made the decision to grant permanent solvency exemption this morning. Dal’s current temporary exemption runs out in 2013, which is why it’s such a big deal for this year’s bargaining process.

“We knew it was becoming an issue in negotiations,” she says. “The Cabinet sought to be helpful, and thought it best to let them know in advance.”

Jones-Gordon says the ministry has been looking at the possibility of granting exemption for some time. The exemption applies to all universities who have the same sort of plan as Dal: University of King’s College, St Anne’s University, St. Francis Xavier and Acadia University.

More information will be available once the administration makes their decision tomorrow.