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OUT IN THE COLD

After meetings and arbitration, Mount Royal College instructors commence with strike vote proceedings

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Classes could end a little too early for Mount Royal College students this semester.

MRC faculty called a strike vote for Nov. 15 after negotiations with the MRC Board of Governors ended late on Tue., Oct. 30. The faculty could go on strike as early as Nov. 19 if the strike vote succeeds.

According to Mount Royal Faculty Association President Jerre Paquette, the decision to call the strike vote was made after the faculty met with the board three times this week with no new developments.

"If we have to go on strike, we will go on strike," said Paquette. "We think the faculty is prepared to do that."

Although no new meetings between MRC faculty and the BoG have been scheduled since the call for a strike vote, Paquette believes the college board is working as hard as the MRFA to come to an agreement prior to an actual strike.

"Sometimes it takes pressure in order to get the best ideas," he said.

MRC Executive Director of Public Affairs Hunter Wight felt the board is doing the best it can.

MRFA commenced work-to-rule action on Oct. 22 after mediated contract negotiations with the BoG failed. The faculty at MRC have been without a contract since July. Paquette explained that after three full days of mediation in September, the MRFA accepted the mediator's report in its entirety, but the BoG rejected it. The report gave faculty a 4.9 per cent salary increase, which was lower than the nine per cent the faculty had requested.

"We accepted the mediator's report as a bare minimum," said Paquette. "Any further negotiations would have to include more."

"We believe the offer is a fair one," said Wight. "The fiscal environment is changing and we have to make sure whatever arrangements are made in this year are manageable in future years. The board has decided that 4.5 per cent is an offer it can do, but we're open to further discussion."

Elaine McKiel, Associate Undergraduate Dean in the Faculty of Nursing, explained that an MRC strike could have ramifications for U of C students in the Calgary Conjoint Nursing Program, taught by both U of C and MRC instructors.

"This could cause some major problems for us," she said. "But we've done it before, we've operated under strike conditions before and we'll do it again. It just takes some creative planning." McKiel also expressed the sincere hope that MRC instructors would not strike.

After the BoG rejection of the report, the faculty directed the MRFA Executive Committee to commence job action as well as the right to call a strike vote.

"We are doing everything possible to avoid affecting students," said Paquette. "Although sometimes the only way faculty can get attention from the board is to affect students."

The first phase of work-to-rule started Oct. 18 and removed faculty attendance from all voluntary committees. The second phase begins Nov. 1 and remains unaffected by the call for a strike vote, according to Student's Association of MRC President James Wood. This phase includes faculty cancelling all office hours, stopping all e-mail communication with students, and further withdrawals from committees. In light of the call for a strike vote the SA is concerned.

"The second phase is going to affect students," said SAMRC Vice-President External Mark Sollis.

According to Sollis, the SA is looking at the services they normally provide to students and will possibly amplify them to meet student needs.

"The Students' Association is completely neutral," said Sollis. "The conflict is between the Board and the MRFA."

The University of Calgary Faculty Association will also watch MRFA actions closely. TUCFA is currently planning responses to the university and the government in relation to their own agreement.

"Many U of C faculty were dismayed at the arbitration results which came out in August," said Baker. "We face the same sorts of problems at U of C except for differences in the area of recruitment and retention."

According to Baker, TUCFA is also hoping the MRFA will resolve problems quickly and the salaries and benefits will become more consistent with what they should be.

"We understand their frustrations," he said. "We hope they're able to sort out their problems as soon as they can in a way which enables them to get on with their lives."

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