Letter from King’s President Leavitt Regarding Possible Strike Action at Dalhousie

Letter from King's President Leavitt Regarding Possible Strike Action at Dalhousie

Office of the President and Vice-Chancellor
University of King’s College
17 February 2012

Dear King’s students,

As you know, the Dalhousie Faculty Association (DFA), the union which represents professors, librarians and counselors at Dalhousie, is currently in negotiations with Dalhousie University over its collective agreement. Recently, the provincial government appointed a conciliator to aid in those negotiations and, as part of the negotiations process, the DFA conducted a strike vote this week.  The DFA has just announced that the vote has been counted and is in support of a strike.  As you may also have heard, the DFA recently left the bargaining table.

I have been receiving many questions about what King’s would do in the event of a strike by the DFA. The purpose of this e-mail is to answer what questions I can and to note some questions to which answers would have to wait until and unless a strike occurred, particularly if one went on for a long period of time.

First, let me say that, in spite of the fact that the DFA has voted in support of a strike and appears to have left the bargaining table, a strike is by no means inevitable. The vote in favour of a strike does not mean that the DFA must now go on strike.  Rather, it simply means that the DFA may go on strike if it believes that doing so will aid it in its negotiations with Dalhousie.  Talks may still resume at any time with the result that both Dal and the DFA may reach an agreement.  Failing that, the conciliator may have recommendations that may turn out to be acceptable to both parties. 

Second, even if talks fail to resume, and even if the DFA elects to go on strike, a strike cannot happen immediately.  Under the Trade Union Act, the DFA would not be in a position to strike until two weeks after the provincially appointed conciliator submits a formal report to the Minister of Labour (he has not done this yet). And, under the Act, the DFA is required to give 48 hours’ notice before a strike can occur.  The earliest a strike could occur, therefore, with 48 hours’ notice, would be two weeks after the conciliator submits his formal report.  So, while we don’t know if a strike will occur and we don’t know, if one were to occur, how long it would last, what we do know is that, at the earliest, a strike could not occur for a couple of weeks.

Third, as you know, while we offer programmes jointly with Dal, King’s is an autonomous institution with moral, legal and financial obligations to its faculty, staff and students that are quite independent of Dalhousie. Our faculty are not members of the DFA, our campus is not on Dalhousie property (hence it cannot be legally picketed), and our students pay tuition for courses offered by King’s faculty on the King’s campus alone. With the blessing of the King’s Board of Governors, therefore, and with the understanding and support of Dean Summerby-Murray (Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Dal) and Dal President Tom Traves, should there be a strike by the DFA, all classes currently offered on the King’s campus taught by King’s faculty will continue as scheduled. Those classes will remain open to students from both Dal and King’s who are enrolled in them.

With respect to what will happen at Dalhousie in the event of a strike, I have been led to understand that all classes offered on the Dalhousie campuses will be cancelled, though students will be allowed on campus and various services for students will continue to be available.  This will have an impact on all of you who are taking courses at Dalhousie.  You should know, however, that no university in Canada has ever had to cancel an entire semester of classes due to a strike, and Dal is committed to doing everything it can to ensure that students will be able to complete this semester.  Should a strike occur, it may not last that long.  If it does, Dal may consider extending the semester into, for instance, the exam period.  If you check the link “Negotiations” on the Dalhousie home page you will find answers to questions you may have about Dal’s plans in the event of a strike.  Dal will be updating this page as new information becomes available, so you may want to check it daily.

I am sure that some of you have more questions than this letter can answer, and some questions cannot be answered until and unless a strike/lockout occurs. We await Dal’s responses over time.  But, in the meantime, if you could spread the word amongst yourselves that, in the event of a strike, all classes taught by King’s faculty on the King’s campus will continue, that would be great. 

Accessing the link above on a regular basis will ensure that you have the latest information regarding negotiations at Dal.  That web-page will also inform you as to whether a strike has been called or been averted and, in the event of a strike, it will provide Dal’s announcements regarding classes, campus access, etc.  In the event of a strike, both King’s and Dal will ensure that you receive the updates and information you need through our web-sites and missives like this, and King’s faculty teaching classes at King’s will also communicate with you as new information becomes available.

Finally, should you be asked, King’s itself takes no position on the negotiations between Dalhousie and its Faculty Association (though individuals at King’s may). Our university respects the rights of both employers and employees to bargain a collective agreement and, on behalf of King’s, I wish both parties every success in reaching an agreement as soon as possible.

All my best,

Dr. Anne Leavitt 
President and Vice-Chancellor


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