ASTFA has requested the Minister of Labour, the Hon. Marilyn More, to appoint a conciliation officer to assist the Union and the Employer to reach an conclusion to the negotiation of a collective agreement.
For Immediate Release
Monday, December 6, 2010
TALKS NOT PROGRESSING: ATLANTIC SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY FACULTY ASSOCIATION REQUESTS APPOINTMENT OF CONCILIATION OFFICER
HALIFAX – After 8 months, negotiations toward a first collective agreement between the Atlantic School of Theology Faculty Association and the Board of Governors of Atlantic School of Theology (AST) have made very slow progress.
In a vote conducted between Nov. 30 and Dec. 3, the members of the Faculty Association (ASTFA) voted to file for conciliation. The ASTFA has formally requested the Hon. Marilyn More, Minister of Labour and Workforce Development, to appoint a conciliation officer to assist in the conclusion of the negotiations. The ASTFA remains committed to continue to negotiate toward a fair agreement. A strike vote has not yet been called, but will be contemplated if the Employer does not present an offer acceptable to the membership within a reasonable time frame.
The ASTFA was organized in 1998 and certified by the Province of Nova Scotia in January 2010 as the sole bargaining agent for the south end University’s full time faculty and professional librarians. However, the Union has never had a collective agreement with the AST Board of Governors. Current negotiations began in April 2010 and the Union has presented a full proposal to the Board’s representatives. Some progress has been made in those areas in which the Employer has replied to the Union’s proposals, but many key issues remain unresolved or unaddressed, including job security; privacy rights; working conditions; occupational health and safety issues; and employee benefit plans and salaries, among many other issues.
AST faculty and professional librarians are among the lowest paid in Nova Scotia. The Faculty Association’s salary proposals ask the Board to remedy that situation and to acknowledge the cost of living in Nova Scotia’s most expensive city, as well as the rates of taxation that prevail in Nova Scotia. To date, however, the Board has made no salary offers. The fact that ASTFA salaries have not increased since April 2008 is concerning for ASTFA members, not least because of the University’s ongoing public commitment to excellence in theological education.
Theological schools across Canada are competing for what seems to be a smaller number of students. AST’s ability to attract and retain students is related to the University’s commitment to providing well-qualified teachers and scholars. As they are in all sectors of the economy, working conditions and salaries are factors in the University’s ability to attract and retain such personnel.
ASTFA’s interest in unionization and in this agreement has always been to strengthen the existing positive relations among AST faculty, librarians,and AST as a whole. The Union believes that the Board has the same goal.