Negotiation between the Dalhousie Faculty Association and the Board of Governors has progressed to conciliation meetings, the results of which will decide whether faculty members go on strike.
The two sides met Monday with a conciliator and are set to meet again on Tuesday and Jan. 29. If no agreement is reached, an impasse is declared and the DFA may legally strike after 14 days have passed.
Darren Abramson, president of the Dalhousie Faculty Association, said the 960 member-association doesn’t want to strike, but they’re ready to.
“We are in full strike preparation mode because, while we hope for the best through conciliation, we must be prepared for the worst,” said Abramson during a break Monday.
Early Monday, the DFA said on Twitter it has secured strike headquarters in Halifax and Truro.
Conciliation between the DFA and Dalhousie Board of Governors begins this morning. While our team is committed to reaching an agreement, the DFA will be ready in case conciliation is not successful. Strike headquarters have been secured in Halifax and Truro. #DFAstrikeprep
— Dal Faculty Assoc (@dalfacultyassoc) January 22, 2018
“If there is a strike or walkout, the consequences would be cancelled classes for students,” Abramson said.
“We recognize that that would be harmful both for our members and for our students.”
Andrew Lam, a fifth-year industrial engineering student, found out about the conciliation from a fellow student. Lam is worried that a strike would interfere with his post-graduation plans.
“I have a job lined up for after I graduate in May. I don’t want anything to interfere with that,” he said.
The president of the Dalhousie Student Union, Amina Abawajy, said there isn’t much information at this point, but they hope to have an update by early next week.
“Students are asking questions and wanting to know what is going on, but we aren’t in a position to answer those questions yet,” she said.
The DFA filed for conciliation last month, after seven months of collective bargaining. In a news release Jan. 8, the DFA said the two sides “remain far apart” on key issues, including workload, pensions and how to retain and attract faculty.
Abramson wants students to understand that faculty are only trying to help the school.
“Some of your professors are hired on only 10 or even nine-month contracts, meaning they’re not paid to prepare their courses,” he said, in a written message to students. “We don’t think that’s either fair or healthy for the university’s academic standing.”
Abawajy thinks education should be a priority for both faculty and administrative staff.
“It’s important for us to remember that strike mandates and discussions come up every couple of years and these negotiations ensure everyone is being treated fairly,” she said.
A strike could have a lasting impact on Dalhousie students. Last year, faculty strikes at colleges in Ontario affected thousands of students, forcing some to drop courses, delay work terms and even reapply for programs.
“I just hope what happened in Ontario doesn’t happen here,” said Lam.
Other students and tuition-paying parents have voiced their own concerns over social media.
@DalPres should Dal students withhold from tuition payments until there is confirmation that the faculty will not go on strike? Thanks
— Jimmy Lee (@jimmylee1997) January 18, 2018
Tuition Bill + Strike Talk = 😠 parent #SettleIt
— DalDad 🐯 (@DalhousieDad) January 17, 2018
If the Dal faculty goes on strike I’m stabbing somebody
— Vanessa Germain (@NessaGermain) January 15, 2018
The DFA last went on strike for almost a month in 2002. The last instance of conciliation happened in 2012, when an agreement was reached within hours of the deadline for a strike action.
The Dalhousie Board of Governors was unavailable to comment.