Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/10/2011 (3621 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It’s back to the negotiation table this afternoon for Brandon University faculty members and BU administration as the institution’s ongoing strike enters its 10th day without a resolution.
The negotiating teams have not met since Tuesday afternoon.
On Wednesday, the administration fired off a communique that said BU and the conciliator were ready to talk Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but that the faculty union said it won’t resume negotiations until Monday.
"That was misinformation," retorted Elisabeth MacDonald-Murray, a member of the BUFA executive and part of its bargaining team. "That does not reflect what is happening."
In fact, she said, BUFA yesterday requested to meet with the conciliator and the administration today — a meeting that will take place likely this afternoon. The Sun was unable to confirm the meeting with university officials, who did not respond to a request for an interview.
Also yesterday, BUFA decided to post an open letter to the Brandon University board of governors that was originally written on Oct. 13 by Prof. Peter Rombough of the Biology department, accusing the university administration of attempting to replace the current "collegial" model of faculty-university relations with a "top-down, fear-driven" one.
The professor urged the board to "act quickly to resolve this strike," and said all it would take to end the stalemate would be "a phone call from the chair of the board ..." and made inflammatory statements about Brandon University president Deborah Poff.
When asked whether this letter could hurt the negotiation process, MacDonald-Murray said she hoped it wouldn’t. She said there is concern among BUFA members that members of the board of governors may not understand what has happened during the negotiation process.
"They are responsible for both sides," she said. "It was something that had to be pointed out and called to their attentioned."
Meanwhile, frustrated students who created a tent village in the Brandon University courtyard to protest the ongoing strike were preparing themselves for a second night of plunging temperatures.
"It was pretty chilly," third-year computer science and math student Corey Degagne told the Sun. "We tried to keep things going as a group, just kind of keep group energy up, and at night, tried to get as much blankets as we could.
"A few of us had to move inside, because it was too cold for them. But it’s been good. A lot of people have brought more blankets, boots, we have I think a heater coming maybe. Altogether we’re working as a group and working through this, and the community has been awesome too."
One of the other problems the students face, said Nathan Layh, who organized the Occupy the Courtyard event, is boredom.
"SUDS had open mike night so there was people playing music and they came out and we had a jam out here for a little while just to bring everybody together just for something to do, cause, once it gets dark nobody’s really paying attention to what we’re doing anymore."
Layh said it was frustrating to see that two days had gone by without both sides sitting down at the bargaining table. The fact that the province’s appointed conciliator had to attend another engagement in Winnipeg shouldn’t have prevented the two sides from further discussions, he said.
"Even if the conciliator left, there are still representatives on both sides that could be talking, could be working stuff out.
"As long as we’re camped out on the grass, they should be at the bargaining table. If we can stay out here all day and all night and all weekend, they can certainly sit in a comfortable boardroom and talk like adults about how to get this over with and reach reasonable conclusions."
The provincial government has not budged from its position of putting faith in the collective bargaining and conciliation process.
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger refused to comment on the strike to the Sun yesterday. His press secretary, Matt Williamson, gave the following statement:
"At this point, it’s our hope that the conciliator that we provided will be able to help the parties come to a resolution. We can’t really speculate on when the next steps might be taken."
Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell took it one step further yesterday, saying that the provincial government should not get involved in this strike in any way unless it absolutely has to.
"I don’t think the province does have any business broadly speaking, interfering in a collective bargaining process," Caldwell said. "The province has got a responsibility to ensure that collective bargaining is taking place in a respectful and fair manner."
Caldwell said that he has met with his Brandon West counterpart, Progressive Conservative MLA Reg Helwer, and discussed the Brandon University strike at length.
"We both have resolved to watch the situation, monitor the situation ... and we both have respect for the collective bargaining process."
For his part, Helwer says he would like to see this strike come to a swift conclusion so that the students are no longer caught in the middle of a fight between faculty and university administrators.
He also says it’s in the best interests of both sides to end the dispute because the university’s reputation is being significantly tarnished by yet another labour dispute.
"You look at the other two universities in Manitoba are having increasing enrolments and Brandon University’s is flat," Helwer said. "In a recession and in times of economic stress, enrolments in post-secondary institutions usually go up. Why isn’t that happening at Brandon University?
"I believe the strike, the second strike within this period of time, just damages that reputation further. And students start looking elsewhere, where they can get a degree in a reasonable period of time."