Negotiations in Mount A strike to resume on Wednesday

Striking faculty and the administration at Mount Allison University in Sackville will return to the bargaining table on Wednesday.

                                               Faculty at Mount Allison University started a legal strike on Jan. 27
The university issued a brief notice Monday stating that negotiations will resume at the request of the provincially appointed mediation officer working with the parties.
Rick Merrill has been working with the parties for the last month.
"The university welcomes this return to collective bargaining to resolve the outstanding issues between the university and the Mount Allison Faculty Association," stated the brief news release.
Students like Jean-Sebastien Comeau say they're relieved.
"Them going back is a sign that, you know, things are about to move and they will probably, maybe reach a tentative agreement by the end of the week," said Comeau, who's studying international relations.
Faculty started a legal strike on Jan. 27, suspending classes for 2,400 students.
The faculty association says the key issues in the dispute are workload and the need to provide greater support to the university's core academic mission.  Salaries, pensions and benefits are also areas of contention, it says.
But one week into the strike, many students say they're feeling in the dark about why the two sides are disagreeing.
They say they're unsatisfied with the limited and partisan information being released by either side.
"We're kind of just on the outside looking in," said Brook Kelly, a second year political science student. "Don't really know what's going on unfortunately."
Some students have set up their own strike headquarters, where their peers can get accurate information about the issues separating faculty and administration.
"As students, we have the rights to be engaged and informed about the issues surrounding the strike. And we were unhappy with the information that was available to us," said Alex Thomas, a fourth year sociology student.
"We are big stakeholders here. We're a big part of this institution and even if we're not at the bargaining table we want to be engaged with what's going on," said Thomas.
The students are also putting together a "super document" to explain the various negotiation topics, such as salaries, student evaluations and the future of part-time professors.
"Compile that all together and say, 'This is a body of information that we have,' so that people can evaluate both sides and decide for themselves," said Alexander Katsanis, a second year philosophy student.
"It's not about taking sides, it's about being informed. That's probably the most important thing," he said.
The student union also held a forum on Monday afternoon, giving students an opportunity to put questions directly to university officials about the strike.
Students will be able to speak to faculty during a similar question and answer session Monday evening, said student union president Melissa O'Rourke.
"Anything that we can kind of do to pressure both parties to, you know, realize that this is, you know, an extremely grave situation," she said.
"So having sessions like this where students come out and ask some really hard questions is incredibly important."
News about the resumption of negotiations comes the same day classes resume at the University of New Brunswick after a three-week strike by full-time professors and librarians.
The UNB dispute was centred on compensation as faculty sought pay levels comparable to other Canadian universities of similar size.
A tentative deal to end that dispute was reached last Thursday, which was the second day the parties were working with a provincially appointed mediator.


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