Monday, February 10, 2014

Academics on Strike: Why FAUW Stands in Solidarity

As many of you may know, our faculty colleagues at Mount Allison University and at the University of New Brunswick have both recently been on strike for different reasons.  In such situations, FAUW stands as one with our hard-pressed colleagues in their efforts to improve and safeguard their working conditions.

Background

The Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers has just ratified an agreement on 6 February, which the Board of Governors has also ratified, putting an end to their strike/lockout situation.

At Mount Allison, colleagues have explained their situation thus: “Faculty are prepared to strike if necessary to protect Mount Allison’s academic mission and its role in providing a supportive community for intellectual development and academic excellence for faculty and students.  In our negotiations, we are fighting to protect existing provisions in the Collective Agreement that uphold academic freedom and collegial governance – provisions that the administration is trying to weaken.”

FAUW’s Position

At the Faculty Association’s Board of Directors meeting on 9 October 2008, in the midst of strikes at the University of Windsor and Brandon University (MB), the following motion was passed: “That, providing its financial situation is healthy, FAUW will send $1,000 and a letter of support from the president to faculty associations that have been on strike for a week, and that the Board will discuss additional donations if the strike continues.

Consequently, FAUW has sent a $1,000 cheque to each of the faculty associations mentioned above, along with a letter of support.

Why Offer Support?

Colleagues at unionized institutions have the same concerns as we do: to defend academic freedom, collegial governance, principles of equity in the workplace, and to establish a safe and positive working environment for all members.  When administrations at other institutions see fit to erode or abrogate any of the core principles of
"If these principles are not defended everywhere, they can be eroded anywhere, regardless of whether or not the faculty operate in a unionized environment."
academic life that are FAUW’s duty to defend at UW, it is also our duty to offer support to our colleagues at those institutions.  If these principles are not defended everywhere, they can be eroded anywhere, regardless of whether or not the faculty operate in a unionized environment.  As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, we at UW have been extremely fortunate for having an administration that has not (yet!) deserved to work with a unionized body of faculty.

This situation prevails because there has been, by and large, a practical recognition of the importance of those principles that appears to be at the core of decision-making at UW.  We at FAUW are well aware of the potential precariousness of this situation – it depends largely on continuing good will and recognition of a positive common cause on both sides.  As we know, administrators change, and with such changes comes the risk of a degradation in operational relations between faculty and the administration.  Consequently, we are eager to support our colleagues who work in adversarial contexts elsewhere, since our own good fortune can by no means be taken for granted.  Should our own relations with UW’s administrators ever degrade to the point of both unionization and a strike, we would certainly benefit from being part of an established national network of support.

Moreover, colleagues at other institutions are just that: colleagues.  Any number of them may have been or may again be at some point your own departmental colleagues.  The expansion and transmission of human knowledge to future generations are our primary tasks wherever we work as academics and therefore our working conditions are a common concern.

None of the above implies that FAUW is considering a union drive at any point in the near future – we simply don’t need one.  That being said, in the current economic and social environment, it would behoove academics to support other academics in their efforts to fulfill our duties to society. Nothing less than the future of advanced human inquiry and cultural memory is at stake.

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