In an email sent directly to each student of the University last week, Board of Governors Chair Marianne Berube claimed that the faculty strike was “strategically intended to have maximum impact on students and that is deeply unfortunate”. Not only is this claim false, but for Ms. Berube to suggest this to students in her capacity as Chair of the Board is unprofessional and unacceptable.
The faculty association has in fact had almost no influence over the timing of this labour action. As Ms. Berube well knows, negotiations with the Administration began in the spring semester. Throughout April and May, it proved extremely difficult to schedule meetings with the Administration’s bargaining team. Indeed, of the 11 meetings originally scheduled over the course of April and May, the Administration cancelled 6 of them. We have had persistent scheduling problems with the Administration due to the need to work around the schedule of their chief negotiator, Toronto-based lawyer and partner in the employment law firm Hicks Morley, Mr. John Brooks. While faculty represent themselves in bargaining, the Administration and Board of Governors hires an extraordinarily expensive labour lawyer, whose bills are paid out of the operating funds of the university, and who must commute to North Bay for each meeting.
As soon as the provincial conciliator became involved, that introduced another set of limits to our scheduling: we expressed our preference for the earliest available dates when filing for conciliation back in August, but we were unable to secure the services of a conciliator until October 7th. The setting of a strike deadline is a matter of law in Ontario and not the choice of the union. After the failure of conciliation to produce an agreement, provincial law stipulates a 17 day cooling-off period from the filing of a “no-board” report before a union is in a legal strike position. In our case, that happened to be November 2nd.
Ms. Berube’s job as the Chair of the Board of Governors is to be a steward for the long-term health and reputation of Nipissing. We remind Ms. Berube that the reputation of this university has been built fundamentally on the dedication and care faculty give our students. For the Chair of the Board of Governors to suggest to the students of the university that faculty deliberately harmed their interests is not only false but shows extremely poor judgement on her part, and suggests she has failed to understand her role as Board Chair.
The faculty of Nipissing University call for Ms. Berube to immediately retract her comments by sending a corrected communication to our students or by forwarding this post to them.