The fact that The Brunswickan, a weekly newspaper out of the University of New Brunswick, will be in print this week wouldn’t be worth a headline normally, but things are far from normal at UNB. Professors, instructors and librarians have been walking the picket line since Jan. 13 and this would have been the second week The Bruns didn’t come out in print.
As Editor-In-Chief Nick Murray explained in a note to readers, the paper wasn’t going to be able to continue printing due to lack of funds — a direct result of the labour dispute. Though continuing online, the print edition was to be stopped indefinitely — until, that is, CUP’s national advertising partner FREE Media made a deal that enabled The Bruns to continue printing for at least five more weeks.
The deal means up-to-date coverage of the dispute (and other relevant, awesome content) will be physically on campus providing tremendous value to the entire UNB community — students, the union and the university. It’s moments like this when campus media is vital. Major snaps to FREE Media for throwing their support behind the paper and keep up the good work Bruns staffers!
Though The Bruns’ situation concerning printing is unique, unharmonious labour relations between universities’ and their faculty is not. In fact, several of CUP’s Atlantic members seem to be dealing with similar disputes, albeit at varying degrees of intensity. The Aquinian and The Argosy have also run recent coverage of collective bargaining processes between their respective schools and faculties — is there a bigger trend for some illustrious campus journalist to piece together?
UNB’s dispute is over the collective agreement between UNB and the union representing UNB faculty, the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers. Bargaining has been ongoing since March 2013, with the meat of the issue appearing to be AUNBT members’ wages. Specifically, a wage floor and ceiling, and the indexation of wages based on inflation.
The issue at hand for AUNBT is the university’s alleged “resource starving” of core academic programs. The union says the university is claiming to be operating at a deficit but those numbers don’t add up (see video). Faculty salaries aren’t the problem, according to the union, the real problem is a ballooning managerial team at the expense of hiring new, fully-supported faculty members (with benefits, security and all the jazz). Many AUNBT members are asking for UNB’s collective agreement to be compared to other “similar-sized and similar-missioned universities.”
The university, on the other hand, is presenting its finances claiming their proposal makes fiscal sense based on their numbers. They’ve even outlined the finances in an hour-long webinar. Kevin Lacey of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation supports UNB, saying AUNBT should “keep the state of the provincial economy in mind.”
Keeping Lacey’s comment in mind, it’s interesting to note that Mount Allison’s faculty association members have given their union a strike mandate citing reasons similar to those of AUNBT’s members. St Thomas University, however, seems to be on track to settle with its faculty’s union. What accounts for the similarity and difference — is it the parties at the table or is it, as Lacey says, the economy?
Smells like a story to me. But then again I’m in a dingy Toronto office running off a hunch and three coffees.