Dalhousie faculty members voted 83 per cent in favour of giving the Dalhousie Faculty Association (DFA) the mandate to strike, announced DFA president Anthony Stewart today.
The majority vote means that the executive now has an ability to call a strike any time after the two-week legal ‘cooling-off’ period, which will likely start next week.
“I am aware that President Traves and the administration is saying that significant progress has been made. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I have to question whether we were all in the same room together,” Stewart said.
“This should send a strong message to the Dalhousie board about our resolve for a fair deal,” he said.
The Dal administration blog says the Board of Governors invited the DFA back to talk on Feb. 16 and that it’s necessary to talk more about the pension plan before the conciliator files his report.
“There’s a lot of room left for good discussion, and we believe we can come to an agreement,” it says.
“The important conversation on monetary items and pensions just got started. We owe our students and our faculty members more than one day of discussion on this important topic.”
But Stewart said today talks are not ongoing and no meetings have been scheduled.
The administration blog also says all non-monetary issues were resolved at the last meeting on Feb. 15. Stewart contradicted that claim.
“The truth is that the DFA offered to withdraw all remaining non-monetary issues if the administration would withdraw theirs,” he said, so the two sides could talk pensions.
“This is not resolving issues. This is clearing obstacles, as we have been doing all the way along, so the administration will bargain with us constructively. This is an example, though, of how the administration is spinning things.”
The administration’s proposal included compensating pension payment increases with higher salaries, using university money instead of employee payments to pay for past debt and giving veto power to employees on any “major decision” regarding the plan.
But Stewart said the administration’s proposal, which is 34 pages long, is unacceptable because it insists on the pension plan being removed from the DFA’s collective agreement.
This would mean that if anything went wrong with the pension, the members of the DFA would not be able to take any action to get compensation.
“It would be leaving our members unprotected at the most vulnerable stage of their life,” Stewart said. “The idea that if something goes wrong, you have no grievance position – it’s unacceptable. It would be irresponsible for us to agree to something like that.”
The DFA’s proposal consists of four points and Stewart says the administration needs to agree to those before talks can move ahead.
“We hope that they will contact us with a constructive offer so that we can actually negotiate,” said Stewart. The DFA’s proposal agrees to move to a jointly sponsored pension plan, which could save $50 million for the university.
“The question you have to ask is, what more do they really want?” said Stewart. Administration has been advocating for the jointly sponsored framework since the beginning of negotiations, and the blog says one of the major issues is agreeing to that framework.
The DFA proposal also requires letting the association have veto power over any changes to the plan and a cap on payment increases.
“Getting the strike mandate puts us in the position that we can, we hope, get the administration’s attention,” Stewart said.
When asked what the DFA would like to tell students about the potential for a strike, Stewart reiterated his call for action.
“We have a commitment to the students, and we see the administrators don’t. Where we are now is hoping that students realize that if they want to avoid disruption to the term, that they will start emailing the administrators,” he said.
“Part of the problem is how we have been experiencing this and how the administration has been experiencing this. Their story is that progress is being made. It does make you wonder what they mean by progress.”