BUFA Announcements & Press Releases

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November 17, 2011
  • Letter of Support. Kenton Hoeppner

    Hi there,

    My name is Kenton Hoeppner and I am a student at BU. I need to email you about my opinion on the current situation. I think that you need to negotiate a deal that BUFA will be satisfied with for a long period of time and not arbitrate it. As students, we do not want to be in the same situation again in 3 years. I know we want to be back in class, but we dont want to do this all over again. If you do strike again, I have a feeling that the drop out rate will be high and have low enrollment. So please, come out of this strike with a fair deal for BUFA.

    Thanks for your time,

    Kenton Hoeppner

  • Letter of Support: The Employment of Grant Mitchell by the University Administration . Raymond Thomson

    The University administration hired Grant Mitchell, a $400-plus-an-hour-external employer lawyer from Winnipeg and activist in Canadian Labour Watch Association, Vancouver, as chief negotiator http://www.labourwatch.com/about/members/. As it turns out, Canadian Labour Watch Association is an anti-union organization http://www.behindthenumbers.ca/2011/10/14/small-business-and-the-attack-on-unions/ . Grant Mitchell is a member and actively involved in attacking the pay and benefits of unionized Canadian workers.

    Grant Mitchell was hired by Dr. Poff for this reason: to provide advice on how the Collective Agreement should be restructured to give the President and senior administrators more control over faculty and their activities. The use of Grant Mitchell is also a clear indication that the University believe in Mr. Mitchell’s ability to transform Brandon University from collegial academic environment to one where, as Professor Csapó of the University of Saskatchewan puts it: “Essential academic freedom, research values are undermined by totally uninformed administrative decisions based on the bottom line, nothing else” http://www.bufa.org/2011-Strike/Support/Csapo.htm.

    With all this in mind, is it really possible to side with the University, or remain neutral? Is the corporatization of our beloved public institution in the best interest of students (i.e. students as consumers)? Is the use of Grant Mitchell really worth the added costs to collective bargaining? Does Mr. Mitchell really want a fair and equitable deal reached in a timely manner, or is he more concerned in seeing the destruction of BUFA (his affiliation with labour watch would suggest so)?

    As students it is important to remember that the issues BUFA are presently fighting for, are intrinsically tied to the issues students care about (e.g. adequate course offerings, the university being an environment of fairness and respect, the attraction and retention of world class professors, and etc.)

    Remember: the faculty’s work place is our learning environment. Support your professors and encourage the University to negotiate, not arbitrate a fair and equitable Collective Agreement, a deal that faculty, students and the University will benefit from.

    Raymond Thomson

    History Student
    Brandon University

November 16, 2011
  • Letter to the Board of Governors. Dr. Hamid Mumin

    Perhaps some historical perspective on this strike will help. This is the 5th negotiation that I have been present for at Brandon University, dating back to 1998. Prior to that, we were under a series of wage freezes. For each of these 5 negotiations, including the present negotiation, administration has offered the faculty roughly zero percent, zero percent and zero ±2 percent in wage increases (may not be exact but essentially a zero percent increase in our salary scale). Now put yourself in our place for a moment. Where would you be today if your salary had been frozen for the past 18 years? What would you think of your employer? In our case, the administration cried poverty in each of these negotiations, and in no way did they have any money to offer us anything better. In all cases, it forced BUFA to take a strike vote, and ultimately walk in 1998, 2008 and currently. In 2002 and 2005, strikes were averted only at the last hour with the admin softening their position. In all cases, the salary increments ultimately agreed on were effectively the cost of living (2 to 3% per annum). Also, there was some catch-up for previously cancelled increments, and some agreed movement on raising floors and ceilings in order to place Brandon University at a reasonable range so we have some slight hope of competing for quality professors. In spite of these modest salary increases, Brandon remains well below the Manitoba and Canadian University averages, which is not a good position to be in if you want to attract and keep high quality Professors at Brandon and build this University. In spite of the administrations perpetual cry of poverty, Brandon has posted operating surpluses throughout this time, and continues to do so at the present.

    The current round of bargaining has been particularly egregious. In corporations, when you want to force a strike, you hire the best anti-labour lawyer/negotiator money can buy, rewrite the collective agreement with lots of impossible clauses, offer zero percent on salary, and throw it at the union. When they walk, you are prepared with the public smear campaign. Voila, the Brandon University situation!

    It appears that you have been misled and/or misguided as to many of the facts, as some false and inflammatory information has been put into the public domain by the administration, including recent comments suggesting that BUFA and Joe Dolecki are the sole cause of the greedy professors demands. However, asking for cost of living is a very reasonable position to take, by anybodies standards.

    There are 3 main constituents at the University, the students, the faculty and the administration. There are also 3 main functions of the University, to teach, to conduct research, and to provide service to the community. These functions are all carried out by the faculty. Students and the public are the main beneficiaries of our work, while the principal function of the administration is to ensure that faculty are able to carry out their jobs with maximum effectiveness and efficiency. This requires a collegial work environment with job satisfaction and a positive outlook. When that occurs we all benefit and prosper. In a true "University" environment we are all on the same team.

    Currently, the administration has cultivated an all-around atmosphere of hostility that has never previously existed at this university. Too many of my colleagues are talking about leaving (the best of our faculty are the most mobile). I simply cannot comprehend why our administration would not want to do well for their faculty. This escapes me totally. Why? What is this new governance philosophy that demands the put down and degradation of employees? What ethical standards allow a University to feed all manner of misleading and inflammatory information to the public in order to force their way? Do you think a university can succeed in this manner? Do you want your children and our students studying in this type of poisoned atmosphere?

    I cannot tell you what to do, but you need to think very carefully about where this is going and where you want this University to go. I know the faculty will fight to ensure that Brandon University is restored to its place of integrity and dignity, and I hope that you will do the same.

    Hamid Mumin Ph.D., P.Eng., P.Geo.
    Department of Geology

  • Solidarity: An Appeal. David Playfair

    Dear Colleagues,

    I am writing to you because some of you have made it known to me that you are planning to relinquish, or are considering relinquishing, your support of BUFA during the strike.

    First, let me say that I really appreciate the forthrightness of your disclosure about your thoughts regarding this matter. I feel that alone demonstrates a great deal of respect and consideration.

    Let me, in my turn, be just as forthright with concerns and questions that I have in reaction to your statements tome.

    I miss my students terribly and feel very concerned for them. I empathize with the fact that they have been basically stuck in a completely compromised position for the past month. I feel especially bad because I was away on research for nearly two weeks before we went on strike, so I haven't actually seen them for six weeks! My out of town students who have no family or jobs here are really suffering. In short, I am just as concerned about the well being of my students as your choice to return suggests that you are, particularly given that this is an opera production year, the culmination of years of work and preparation for me, for Gordon, and for our students.

    But I'm not going to cross the picket line.

    As much as I wish I could be teaching our students as soon as Monday, for many reasons I simply cannot and will not go contrary to the will and actions of my BUFA colleagues. It is not that I love them more than the students. I love them equally. While I know that the strike seems to have lasted an eternity for the students, and they are frustrated and disappointed, and even angry, this strike is about much more than missed classes and the delay of this semester. I know monetarily the continuation of the strike is not worth it, individually, or collectively, but then it has never been about the money. I do not care about the extra $18 on my pay cheque every week, but I do care about the university being an environment of fairness and respect, and so should the students. This is why I have no compunction about staying in solidarity with BUFA because that is what is ultimately best for the students and ultimately what is best for society. I believe, in fact, that it is part of our calling as educators to bring the students to an understanding of the importance of standing up for collective bargaining (a position which BUSU continues to openly and firmly support in this strike), for the sake of retaining the rights that have been so hard won over the past century.

    I also believe in and care deeply about a positive and academically free post secondary experience for students, faculty, teaching assistants, and professional assistants. I care about my colleagues here at BU outside the School of Music, and the relationship we have with the other departments and faculties. I care about my colleagues at other universities who stand at risk of the erosion of their rights if we do not stand together with one another here, now at BU. I care about the bigger picture that will enable the smaller picture (our relationship with our students) to remain healthy.

    I firmly believe that crossing the picket line will do damage to the integrity of both the bigger and the smaller pictures.

    If some of us go back to teach on Monday, and some of us do not, what does that say to the students? What does that say to colleagues at BU? To colleagues at other universities in the province? Across the country? In the many universities around the world with which we are all, to varying degrees, affiliated? What kind of position are we then putting all these people in?

    In terms of students alone, there are several questions. Would returning profs be requiring them to go to classes/lessons, or is it their choice? What position does returning faculty take on those students who don't, in their turn, also cross the picket line? What affect do the choices of the returning profs have on the students who choose to support the position of BUFA and the majority of the BU faculty? And what kind of perception will the students have of a prof who crosses the line and does not stand in solidarity with their colleagues? What affect will students' crossing the picket line have on their relationships with their peers and colleagues? Ultimately, will crossing the line not create even more division, on all kinds of levels?

    And then there's the bigger picture. In the current political climate of neo-conservative ideology, a mindset that is both, at a fundamental level, anti-union AND anti-art, the fact that the Board of Governors (in contravention of its own by-laws) chose to create an ad hoc bargaining team headed by a lawyer who is an advisor to the Canadian Labour Watch Association (a Vancouver-based anti-union organization) should raise many warning flags, if it hasn't already done so. I cannot put it better than our music colleague at University of Saskatchewan:

    "Universities in North America - and worldwide - are forcibly "transformed" to business corporations by people who have overwhelming financial clout but very little understanding of the learning process, the arts, sciences, the real significance of the university for the future of both society and our planet. Education is not a business, students are not consumers, but they are our next generation. The business model harms this next generation through a deterioration of the learning environment and a corruption of the learning spirit. Disinterested, curiosity-driven search for both intellectual and emotional enrichment of human societies (currently are teetering on the brink of unthinkable loss of spirit) is in mortal danger by the irresponsibility of those no one elected to lead but who nonetheless lead by power. Essential academic freedom, research values are undermined by totally uninformed administrative decisions based on the bottom line, noting else. Quality ceased to matter, only mass and dollar revenues matter. In this atmosphere of cynicism and rot, we here at the University of Saskatchewan root for you and carefully follow your brave stand up to coercion. We wish you a well-deserved success in Brandon, which we hope to show the way elsewhere. With warmest regards,

    Gyula Csapó
    Full Professor, Composition and Music Theory
    Department of Music
    University of Saskatchewan"

    I beg you to read the letters of support from current students, from BU alumni, from individual faculty members outside BU and faculty associations from universities across the country, and look at both the bigger and the smaller pictures, the long term and the short. I especially beg you to become informed about the details of the negotiations by speaking directly with our negotiating team, Bill Paton, David Winter, Derek Brown, Elizabeth MacDonald-Murray and Joe Dolecki, our very hard-working and honest colleagues who have volunteered their time and efforts on our behalf. From their labours we will all reap the benefits, students and faculty, today and in the future.

    Yours, always respectfully and affectionately,

    Assistant Professor of Voice
    School of Music,
    QEII,-204, 270 18th Street
    Brandon, MB
    CANADA R7A 6A9

November 15, 2011
  • Unpublished Letter to the Brandon Sun. Dean Beaubier

    To the Editors
    Brandon Sun

    As a graduate of Brandon University, I feel a strong connection to the school.  While the current situation is regrettable, I take exception to the comments your paper put forth in castigating the parties involved and the quality of the institution.
    Your editorial “Our View” of November 10 characterizes individuals as “out of touch, selfish, and greedy” but one could easily juxtapose these adjectives with “passionate, caring, and principled.”  The problem is the fact that your editorial fails to provide any evidence that these people are motivated in the manner you contend.  Instead you simply lower the argument, providing the public only with baseless innuendo by surmising: “could the BUFA executive be placing its own interests before that of the student body and the community at large?”  The editor’s willingness to denigrate individuals is witnessed further by remarks made about the current student union body.  These students are characterized as “known NDP supporters,” “immature rabble-rousers” and “radical.”  I do not know if the editorial staff at the Brandon Sun realizes this, but the chances of meeting a known NDP supporter in this city are quite high.  Voter information from the last provincial election indicates that more Brandonites cast a ballot in support of the NDP than for all three alternative parties combined.  Secondly, these “rabble-rousers” were democratically elected by a student body and they have gone to great length to meet with both faculty and administration before providing a rationale for their position regarding the strike.  I would venture to guess these young people took considerably more time to reflect on the situation than the author of your opinion piece did.  Finally, I’m old enough to remember another Brandon University graduate who was called a radical – and that was Tommy Douglas.  If I was a current member of the students’ union being criticized in such a fashion, I would rest comfortably in the company I keep with such an alumnus.
    The writer of your piece also concludes that the current strike has jeopardized the future of the university because s/he “hears”  “BU isn’t exactly a school of choice” for current high school seniors.  What the editor fails to mention is the fact that many alternative institutions of higher education in this country will also be in a legal position for strike or lockout during these students’ next four years of study.  Furthermore, faced with a contract proposal similar to that offered to the professors at Brandon University, perhaps these academics will be willing to take the same stand.
    People are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts.  And it is much easier to hold an unfounded opinion than one substantiated by fact.  I hope individuals keep this in mind when they read your editorials and I would trust that the Brandon Sun has the integrity associated with responsible journalism to avoid flippant thoughtless remarks in future coverage of the issue.
    Dean Beaubier

  • Unpublished Letter to the Brandon Sun. Alan W. Clarke

    To the Editors
    Brandon Sun

    The Brandon Sun, in its editorials and news sections, has portrayed the faculty strike at BU as a greedy fight over money. This narrative is false and obscures the true issues surrounding this strike. First, the administration miscalculated in thinking that it could break the union by forcing a strike, and second, the true causes of this strike were non-monetary. In a letter to BUFA, the Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA) noted that it faced similar tactics from its employer several months ago, as have other faculty associations. As QUFA pointed out, “university administrations across Canada” are hiring anti-union lawyers to deal with collective bargaining. This is what happened at BU, when the Administration engaged Winnipeg lawyer Grant Mitchell, a member of the anti-union Canadian Labour Watch Association, based in Vancouver. As has happened elsewhere, they then proposed substantive changes to the existing contract, changing research requirements and expectations for promotion and tenure. The BU Administration adopted this strategy, knowing well that such tactics would force faculty to vote in favor of a strike. They then miscalculated in thinking that enough faculty would cross the picket lines to end the strike. Faculty, however, to their credit, have remained united.

    The QUFA letter also notes that university administrations across the country are moving in lock step, making unfair compensation offers of 0% raises for two years followed by a 2% raise in the third year. Unsurprisingly, with the increase in the cost of living at 3.2 %, university faculties are resisting this. During negotiations moreover, the Administration’s bargaining team repeatedly insisted that the province had imposed wage restrictions on universities. Premier Selinger has recently denied this, stating, “we’ve just given the universities 5, 5 and 5% [annual] increases in operating grants, so why would we direct them to hold salary increases?”  BU faculty earn significantly less than university faculty elsewhere, and this materially affects the quality of student education.

    Another strategy of these anti-union lawyers at Queen’s and other universities has been to stall on negotiations, then to propose sweeping changes to contract language. In BU’s case, the Administration introduced some 80 pages of revisions to the collective agreement, significantly altering criteria and procedures determining appointments, tenure, and progress through the ranks. BUFA’s attempt to settle these issues over the summer was thwarted by repeated “scheduling difficulties” of the administration’s lawyer. While BUFA eventually succeeded in convincing the employer to drop most of these changes, by then the strike vote had been taken. Given the employer’s delaying tactics, and its intransigence since, this strike and its consequences must be laid squarely at the Administration’s doorstep.

    The fact that the Canadian Association of University Teachers and university faculty associations across Canada are actively supporting this strike with money as well as letters of solidarity demonstrates their awareness of this strategy to break their unions. By hiring an anti-union lawyer to implement this strategy at BU, the Administration is doing long-term damage to the university, its students and its faculty. Get rid of the lawyers and get down to a settlement

    Alan W. Clarke

  • Unpublished Letter to the Brandon Sun. Rosemarie and Chester Letkeman

    To the Editors
    Brandon Sun

    On the web-site for the Brandon University Board of Governors one of the major policies by which the Brandon University (BU) will be guided reads as follows:

    "The Distinct Nature of the Academy – The fiscal soundness of an institution is not an index of academic vitality. While fiscal realities cannot be avoided, the special character of a university is found in two broad relationships within it: the relationship between students and teachers and the relationship between these two and the administration. The quality of these relationships provides the best indicator of the real heal(th)(sic) of the institution."

    This policy statement references the importance that the BU places on relations amongst and between teachers, students and the administration. It is, therefore, puzzling to read about the actions taken by the administration during the strike.

    The strike began October 12, 2011. That same day the administration wrote a communique to the BU Community (that is, students, staff, faculty) stating that classes were being cancelled October 12 through 14th but that the administration would be contacting faculty members to determine which classes would be resumed the week of October 17th. This action on the part of the administration can and probably should be interpreted as an effort to subvert the solidarity of the membership wherein lies the strength of the union. While an action that would be supported by "union-busters" it is an action totally contrary to any policy or intention to establish good relations between the administration and the teachers.

    This same communique also stated that, subsequent to contacting the faculty, the administration would be advising the students as to which courses would be resuming October 17th. There are several aspects to this action. Firstly, it placed each student into an awkward position with respect to the labour dispute. In essence the students were being placed on notice that they were considered to be participants (rather than victims) in the labour dispute. Secondly, the action undermined the relationship between teacher and student - a relationship built upon trust and respect in the context of education not in the context of labour relations between the teacher and the administration. Thirdly, the action intimated, not in words but in the absence of words giving assurances to students of their right not to cross picket lines, that there might be consequences for students who did not cross the picket line to attend courses held by faculty members who did cross the picket line. With respect to the last point it took several meetings between the BU Administration and the BU Student Union (BUSU) to obtain assurances from the BU Administration that the Administration would respect the right of students not to cross picket lines and that their rights would be protected should they not cross the picket lines. If this was an effort on the part of the Administration to use the students to disparage the striking faculty it was a serious miscalculation.

    Reports in the Brandon Sun have raised the question of integrity on the part of the BU Administration with respect to financial issues. At first the BU Administration made claims that they were operating under a mandate from the provincial government to hold wage increases in line with those offered the University of Winnipeg and University of Manitoba. This has turned out to be less than the complete truth. Both the BUSU and the BUFA have reported that they have been unable to obtain evidence that such a mandate existed nor has the BU Administration been able to provide such evidence. On November 2nd, the BU Administration stated that the BU had an unfunded pension liability which would cost the BU $3.12M per year for the next 15 years. Now here was something of substance which would substantiate the BU's position regarding the non-affordability of the wage demands made by faculty. However, an unfunded pension liability, as workers in other establishments have experienced, means that the pension fund into which the BU faculty and the BU pays to cover the current and future pensions of faculty does not have sufficient monies in it to meet those liabilities. In virtually all cases this unfunded liability is the result of employers not having placed their required share into the fund. Should this be the case at the BU, the BU Administration is asking the BU faculty to reduce their wage demands so that the savings in reduced wages can be used by the BU to partially cover its liability for pensions owing or that will be owed to the faculty members.

    The BU Administration stated that the provincial government funding will increase by $1.5M this year (although it is not clear whether the increase continues through other years or there will be year-over-year increases of $1.5M). This would leave them with a shortfall of $1.7M per year to fund their pension liability. But as the Administration stated they would be able to incur further savings by not filling vacancies in faculty positions which is disconcerting since it is faculty that provide the education to BU students.

    Other items that are at issue in this labour dispute are not so easy to find, follow or appreciate but they may represent the tip of the iceberg which has made the current labour dispute so confrontational, intense and long-lived. The BUFA has stated that the Administration in negotiating for a new collective agreement has opened up almost all the terms of previous agreements. A communique available at the BUSU web-site provides a glimpse of the demands made by the BU Administration. One being the BU Administration position that, in certain faculties, in the future tenure will only be offered to teachers who hold a PhD. While laudable as a goal it could mean that current teachers without the PhD would not be eligible for tenure even though they would not have been hired with that understanding. Another item is the intent of the Administration to reduce the credit hours taught by faculty from 18 hours to 15 hours. As discussed in BUSU bulletin the impact could be significant since students would not be able to pursue a major in certain programs of study thus jeopardizing their opportunities to seek post-graduate studies at other institutes. As to the impact on the faculty one can only make guesses, such as, reassignment of faculty time and energy from teaching to doing research and publishing articles.

    Potentially the most damning action on the part of the Administration is their response to a question raised by the BUFA at a bargaining session held September 13, 2011 (this is before the strike). According to a partial record of the meeting posted at the BUFA web-site the BUFA asked the Administration (i.e. Employer), "Is it your view that the present complement of faculty at Brandon University is inferior to that of our peer institutions?" The response from the Administration was, "Yes". This is not the way to establish a relationship of trust and respect. It is probable that this behaviour and the attitude it represents on the part of the Administration created the atmosphere and circumstances leading to the current situation at the BU.

    Jay Winburn, in a letter to the editor, wrote "(T)he only way to win in a dispute with a publicly supported institution is to have public support. This strike by Brandon University's faculty has no support". Is it possible that the BU Administration placed too much confidence in the statement and the attitude it reflects? It would explain the Administration's rationale for the actions discussed above. That is, the actions had little to do with negotiating directly with the BUFA. Rather the Administration in its actions and its statements was appealing to the public for support of its position with respect to items being negotiated including, of course, the issue of wages and benefits. A position that apparently could not be supported on its own merits. What the Administration missed is that in negotiations both parties must feel that they have improved their position, in the parlance of negotiation theory, a win-win situation. What this means is that both parties must negotiate in an atmosphere of respect for and trust in the other. This is what the above policy statement made by the Board of Governors is all about. The Administration also confused the attitude towards strikes with the attitude towards the respective positions of the parties, that is the Administration and the Faculty, which may lead to a strike. One may abhor strikes or lock-outs but one may condone strikes or lock-outs if the issues warrant them.

    As stated in the BU's policy the relationship between student and teacher is also central to defining the health of the BU. What is most instructive in assessing this relationship is the BUSU's, an elected body representing the students at the BU, support of the BUFA. The students have the most to lose in supporting the BUFA. The support encourages the BUFA in its stance, thereby probably contributing to lengthening the strike and it places the student body in an adversarial position with respect to the Administration. Yet the BUSU appears to have sided with the BUFA, a courageous position regardless of one's sentiments about its advisability. This position of the BUSU is even more instructive when considering that the BUSU is a member of the Board of Governors and a member of the Board's Executive Committee. In that role it is privy to information and discussions related to the BU's operations, plans, finances inclusive of its stand with respect to the Collective Agreement with the BUFA. It is reasonably certain that their exposure to and relatively intimate knowledge of the managing of the BU has contributed to and rationalized the BUSU's position. This position speaks volumes about the health of the relationship between the teachers and the students.

    The current agreement expired March 31, 2011. The strike was called on October 12, 2011. It is not likely that the strike will end without arbitration or back-to-work legislation which means classes will not resume before January, 2012. There have been numerous calls for government intervention in the labour dispute. That is ‘meat' for another debate. There is, however, something about which we can be certain, arbitration or back-to-work legislation will never and cannot ever force the parties to trust and respect each other. Without trust and respect we can look forward to more disputes at the BU and all that that means for the future of the BU. It will be the task of the Board of Governors to find the way to implement its policy and heal the rifts that just do not seem to go away.

    Rosemarie and Chester Letkeman

November 14, 2011
November 13, 2011
  • Questions relating to Brandon University strike that the media might have explored but didn't. Errol Black

    1. Early on in negotiations a question was raised regarding the employment of Grant Mitchell, an employer lawyer from Winnipeg and activist in Canadian Labour Watch Association, Vancouver, as chief negotiator for the University. The reason this was of interest is because it was a departure from past practice; specifically, in the past, negotiations for the University were done by Vice Presidents and from time-to-time Deans. There was, in short, an element of collegiality in the negotiations process.
    2. The other anomaly in this year's negotiation is that apparently external consultants were hired by Brandon University to provide advice on how the Collective Agreement should be restructured to give the President and senior administrators more control over faculty members and their activities. An interesting question would be to find out the purpose for recruiting an external consultant to submit a plan for bringing about changes in the conditions governing faculty-administration
    3. Also, of course, the use of external consultants and the hiring of an employer lawyer add costs to collective bargaining. This is a matter that the media might be expected to take an interest in. For example, the lawyer: how much is he being paid per hour and for expenses? Are there limits on how much time he can bill for or are the billable hours subject to his control? The consultants: how much are they getting for preparing a bargaining agenda?
    4. In the period leading up the strike at the University - President and lawyer - suggested that they were limited to by government imposed limits to how much they could offer in salary increases. The University never produced a document to verify the existence of government-imposed limits. However, BUFA did get confirmation from government officials and ministers that no such limits existed. The Brandon Sun was not interested in following up on this question.
    5. The government-imposed limit were subsequently transformed into voluntary limits. In other words, the limits were imposed by the University itself. It was previously suggested that the issues raised now, resulted from a deal that the presidents of the three universities had agreed to prior to May 2009. In brief, the alleged contents of this deal called for each of the universities to hold the line at 0, 0 and 2% on salary increases over three years. The other component of the deal was that Grant Mitchell would be hired to negotiate for all three universities.

      Grant Mitchell implicitly acknowledged the existence of such a deal in a story in the November 10, 2011 Brandon Sun, titled "Pop pleads BU's case." In the story Grant Mitchell addressed the crowd regarding the strike: "Grant Mitchell [told the crowd] he has negotiated labour contracts for other universities in Manitoba without a strike. The same settlement we offered (BUFA) was accepted by the University of Manitoba Faculty Association without a strike vote, let alone having a strike or arbitration." The implication of Mitchell's comments would seem to be that there was indeed an agreement involving the three university presidents. Grant Mitchell delivered the goods at the U of M and the U of W. Now he is trying to deliver the goods at BU. Perhaps that's why he refuses to yield on wages and is demanding arbitration.

    The Brandon Sun cast aspersions on the motives of faculty members, students and anyone else that disagreed with the position of the Brandon Sun. This may be why Sun reporters avoided asking questions about the factors motivating Mitchell and the University.

    There are other questions that might have been asked as this dispute developed. However, it seems that once the Brandon Sun established its position on the strike issue and identified who the villains would be, they didn't need to ask them.

November 12, 2011
  • BUFA Response to Nov. 9 Board of Governors open letter.

    On Nov. 9, the Brandon University Board of Governors published an open letter to students, parents, and concerned citizens. This letter outlines the governance structure and process that was put in place to manage negotiations with BUFA in this round of collective bargaining. Read carefully, and in conjunction with an understanding of the Board’s own By-Laws and Policies, it is clear that this represents an abrogation of the Board’s responsibilities, and a breakdown of Board governance at Brandon University. The circumstances under which the Labour Relations Committee was created violate the Board’s own by-laws and policies, and accepted conventions of board governance. The mandate of this committee removes responsibility for bargaining from the Board Executive, and eliminates the Board in general from the bargaining process, contrary to the Board’s own Collective Bargaining Protocol Policy.

    The details of this gross violation of governance are outlined below:

    1. The Board of Governors’ Collective Bargaining Protocol is not being followed. In the protocol, the mechanism for reporting on progress of negotiations is as follows:
    2. “The collective bargaining committees keep the President informed on the progress of negotiations, consulting with him/her as necessary. In turn, the President keeps the Board Executive Committee informed on the progress of negotiations, consulting with it as necessary. The President also reports to the Board of Governors, from time to time, on the status of negotiations.”

      BUFA has been informed that the members of the Board of Governors, and the Board Executive, have not been kept adequately informed of the progress of negotiations. Furthermore, some Board members have received personal inquiries from the public, and have asked for a meeting of the Board for the purpose of becoming informed of the progress of negotiations, but have been denied this request on the grounds that the Ad Hoc BUFA Bargaining Committee, created expressly for the purpose of dealing with the current BUFA negotiations, “has been and continues to be fully briefed on all issues in bargaining, on a regular basis.” The implication is that regular Board members need not be informed since this committee is doing their job for them.

    3. The Board’s By-Law No. 11 respecting committees identifies only four standing committees of the Board of Governors. No labour relations committee is identified. Therefore, this is a new, ad hoc committee, created at the April 2011 Board meeting, for the specific purpose of dealing with negotiations with BUFA (as stated in the motion described in the Board’s open letter). However, there is no evidence of this committee in the minutes of the April 2011 Board meeting. The Board admits in its open letter that the committee was created while the Board was meeting in camera. According to general conventions of board governance, motions cannot be passed while a board is in camera. In order to be realized, decisions made in camera must be passed by motions moved to open session. While the minutes of the April 2011 meeting do report a number of motions arising from the in camera session, a motion creating this committee does not appear. The Board of Governors therefore recognizes and operates according to this convention. The Ad Hoc BUFA Bargaining Committee, therefore, should never have been recognized; its illegitimacy is beyond doubt.
    4. Student and faculty members of the Board were excluded from the formation and operation of this committee on the basis of an alleged conflict of interest. This is in direct violation of the Board’s own By-Law No. 10 respecting conflict of interest. The by-law states (in part):

      An actual or potential conflict of interest arises when a member is placed in a situation where his or her personal interest, financial or otherwise, or that of a proximate third party (who may also be a member) conflicts or appears to conflict with his or her primary responsibility to the University...

      Circumstances that do not constitute a conflict of interest:

      A conflict of interest does not exist when:

      - members participate in negotiations with respect to salary or other terms of employment on behalf of the university or a group of employees...

      - the interest of the member and any benefit to the member is only as part of the advancement of the interest of the member's administrative or academic unit, or the University...

      These terms of this by-law would suggest, first, that if the interest of students or faculty members is coincident with the advancement of the University, there is no conflict of interest. We are certain that the student and faculty members of the Board would believe their interest relating to the negotiations between BUFA and the Board of Governors to be so coincident. Indeed, they are on the Board because their interest is the interest of the University. In the case of faculty members of the Board, for the duration of their term on the Board, they forgo their membership in BUFA; the risk of a conflict of interest is addressed at the outset. Second, as the Ad Hoc BUFA Bargaining Committee was specifically struck to deal with negotiations, the by-law states explicitly that no conflict therefore exists. The exclusion of certain members in the formation and operation of this committee is alarming, and again, a violation of the Board’s own by-law.

    In sum, the explicit violation of several of the Board’s own by-laws and policies points to a complete breakdown of the functioning of Brandon University’s Board of Governors, and suggests a highjacking of the governance of the University as it relates to the current round of collective bargaining with the Brandon University Faculty Association.

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