CBU, union both recommending ratification of contract
Cape Breton University and the union representing its faculty have reached a tentative agreement and are both recommending ratification of the contract.
CBU and the Cape Breton University Faculty Association (CBUFA) jointly announced the development Thursday. It came just weeks after the association had set a deadline to reach a deal or they would go out on strike.
The agreement is subject to ratification by both the CBU board of governors and the CBUFA membership. CBUFA spokesperson Andrew Reynolds said no ratification date has yet been set for the faculty association.
The parties had earlier announced that they had reached an agreement on what had been identified as the most contentious issue in the contract talks, the layoff clause.
“We hope that this is a signal that the board of governors and the senior management are going to look upon the faculty as partners from here on in to manage the place and not look upon us as adversaries or problem that needs to be managed,” Reynolds said. “The last year or two has not been very constructive.”
CBUFA has been in a legal strike position since Dec. 26 and could have walked off the job or be locked out by the university with 48 hours notice.
Talks between the sides resumed last month with the help of a conciliator. “We are looking forward to moving past this and working with members of CBUFA and the CBU community to make 2017 a great year at Cape Breton University,” CBU interim president Dale Keefe said in a news release.
Reynolds has taught at the university for 17 years, and was in his first year there when faculty did go out on strike. While it wasn’t a prospect he was looking forward to possibly revisiting, he said he learned a lot from the experience.
“I think what that taught me and a lot of people was the importance of the union and the force that the union can be, uniting people’s interests and their efforts,” he said. “I think in this case if it hadn’t been for our singularity of purpose and our expression of willingness to actually go out on strike for what we thought was so important, to protect not just jobs but programs, we might not have had the resolution that we had.”
Word of the tentative deal came as a relief to students, noted Roy Karam, president of the CBU students’ union.
“Relief would probably even be an understatement,” Karam said in an interview. “The fact that a tentative agreement had actually been reached now offers students a lot more hope.”
The potential for a strike has been a dominant topic of conversation among students since prior to the Christmas break, he noted.
“Fortunately students are going to be able to put that conversation to bed now and just focus on their schooling,” Karam said.
On Dec. 9, the Cape Breton University board of governors voted to reject a tentative collective agreement that was reached between former university president David Wheeler and the CBUFA. The faculty association had voted 92 per cent in favour of the agreement. The same day, the board also approved a settlement agreement severing Wheeler’s employment with the university. In rejecting the contract, board chair Ambrose White said the issue wasn’t with the contents of the tentative agreement itself but rather the process under which it was reached, as it was done without the involvement of the board’s negotiating committee.
CBUFA represents 152 professors, librarians, archivists, lab instructors, nursing practice educators and research chairs.
Students make their way across Cape Breton University’s campus Thursday. CBU and the Cape Breton University Faculty Association jointly announced that they have reached a tentative contract deal.