Brandon University faculty wins strike, Manitoba, Canada, 2011

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Time Period:  
12 October
25 November
Location and Goals
Location City/State/Province: 
Brandon, Manitoba
Location Description: 
Brandon University campus
Brandon University Faculty Association, led by then president Joe Dolecki, was seeking a 4% per year raise for 3 years, a workload that was on par with other Manitoban and Canadian institutions, and the preservation of the language in the collective agreement that allowed for a working relationship with administration that reflected a culture of equality and respect.

In March of 2011 the Brandon University Faculty Association’s (BUFA) collective agreement with the Brandon University expired. Entering into negotiations was delayed due to a declared state of emergency. The Assiniboine River was rising, flooding the lower portion of the city and causing parts of Brandon to be evacuated. Negotiations did not commence until May 18, 2011.

At this time BUFA – led by then president Joe Dolecki, was seeking a 4% per year raise for 3 years, a workload that was on par with other Manitoban and Canadian institutions, as well as the preservation of the language in the collective agreement that allowed for a working relationship with administration that reflected a culture of equality and respect. These requests would still cause BUFA members to be amongst the lowest paid faculty in the country. Brandon University (BU) president Dr. Deborah Poff and the BU administration hired Grant Mitchell, a well known Winnipeg anti-union lawyer as their chief negotiator. Under Mitchell’s guidance BU was offering wage increases that would result in a reduction of pay once cost of living was factored in, expectations of increased contact time with students and less time for research, as well as many proposed changes to the language and organization of the collective agreement that would reflect a very top-down style of governance over the 240 members of BUFA. The two sides were clearly far apart on these issues, however bargaining continued throughout the summer months without seeming to really bridge the gap.

At the end of September BUFA negotiators filed a bargaining in bad faith claim against the university and at the same time the BUFA membership overwhelmingly agreed to a strike vote. The consensus of that vote was to go on strike as of 7:31 a.m. on October 12, 2011, at which point the faculty and staff had been working without a contract for nearly seven months. The Brandon University Students Union (BUSU) was the association’s first partner, offering their offices as a safe space where picketers could get warm and take care of their personal needs during a shift. Within the first week of striking, letters of support from faculty associations of other Canadian universities came pouring in. Then during the second week of the strike the student associations of some major Canadian universities began to send in letters of support, as did the local chapters of some of Manitoba’s biggest unions. Monetary donations were delivered and on at least two separate occasions there were “flying pickets’ where faculty from other Canadian universities flew into Manitoba and walked the picket line with BUFA to show solidarity. At the end of the second week BUFA and BU administration entered into mediation, however this only lasted approximately 1 week before it broke down. Reports indicate that BU was only interested in entering binding arbitration, which BUFA did not want. They were hopeful that they could work out an agreement that would allow for a collaborative work culture that would benefit both faculty and students.

During the third week of the strike the letters and money continued. BUFA held a question and answer session for students, parents and other community members. This provided an opportunity for open dialogue between the strikers and the community who were also being affected by the strike and allowed for the students and parents to take an active role in the action. The following week at least 120 students and parents rallied to show solidarity with BUFA. During this time letters of opposition were being sent to the local papers, to Dr. Poff and to the labour minister Jennifer Howard by professors and community members. Students were writing in to the newspapers defending their professors and encouraging the rest of the community to support the faculty during this stressful time.

Throughout the strike, BU president Dr. Poff encouraged both faculty and students to cross the picket lines and continue with their studies, leading to increased tension amongst strikers and those that decided to cross. The public message was that students wouldn’t be penalized academically for crossing, and that the university encouraged continued study so that the term would not be entirely lost. However three years prior during the 17-day 2008 strike the BU administration (under different leadership) locked out all faculty members and students citing that they did not want to create any unnecessary pressure on students to choose sides.

On November 21, labour minister Jennifer Howard ordered BUFA to vote on the latest offer from BU administration, essentially pressuring the union to vote on a deal that may or may not have been what the bargaining committee had wanted to take to their membership. The vote resulted in the members of BUFA accepting and officially ending the longest university strike in Manitoba history at midnight on November 25, 2011. The strike lasted 45 days.

In a message to the Canadian Association of University Teachers, BUFA president Joe Dolecki stated “We preserved free collective bargaining on our campus and served notice to the Employer that we will do whatever it takes to defend our members, our students, our university, and our Collective Agreement now and in the future. Simply stated: We won this strike.”

Research Notes
Black, E. (2011). Deveryn Ross on Brandon university strike. Retrieved from

Black, E., Guard, J., & Rigaux, C. (2011). Fast facts: What you need to know about the Brandon university strike. Retrieved from

Brandon University Faculty Association. (2012). Announcements and press releases. Retrieved from

CBC News. (2011). Brandon University faculty vote to strike. Retrieved from

CBC News. (2011). Brandon University strike ends. Retrieved from

CBC News. (2011). Conciliator chosen in Brandon University strike talks. Retrieved from

Dehaas, J. (2011). Brandon University staff are on strike. Retrieved from

Dehaas, J. (2011). Brandon University strike talks to resume Monday. Retrieved from

Winnipeg Free Press. (2011). Deal reached in Brandon University strike. Retrieved from

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Andrea Delisle, 24/02/2013