I had planned to put together, and issue, a call for proposals for Inkshed 25, and the
information about the venue and costs, over Christmas. But, as I said in my last
communique from my foxhole, things intervened.
For three weeks, I've been thinking, well, in the next day or two, or by the beginning of the
week, or, well, look, within a few days . . . I'll _know something_. But it simply hasn't worked
out that way. Yesterday, for a couple of hours, I thought we were within sight of an armistice,
but today I'm far less sure.
Here's the short version (if you're interested, I've put a couple of links below to further
information: I think this has resonance for all of us -- all of us who are academics, anyway. As
a long-time union supporter, and one of the founders of the union here, I'm thinking hard
about the traditional industrial model for bargaining in this context).
St. Thomas and the union have been negotiating for ten months. At the end of last term the
process went into conciliation, which failed, and then mediation, which failed as well. The
Union called a strike vote for three days after second term was scheduled to begin. In
response, the administration imposed a lockout -- the motive being to prevent the union from
going on strike a week into the new term, and stranding a couple of thousand students in
Fredericton (there was, in my view and that of many others, no possible question that the
union intended to go on strike). As a consequence of various fits and starts at negotiation,
the administration postponed the start of the new term for a week (till January 10), then to
January 14, and then indefinitely. The union declared a strike during that process.
As a result of this, I have no access to my STU email, or to my records, or to the server the
Inkshed Web site is on (thus I can't even transfer it to inkshed.ca, which was on my Moebius-
strip list of things to do). Further, the delay in the term may mean -- I can't tell, because
there's no information on what will be done to squeeze a term in once we get back, if we do --
that we can't hold the conference where we'd planned, and which we'd booked, at the St.
Thomas Conference Centre -- which is actually a pretty nice facility. If St. Thomas's
convocation schedule gets moved, we'll be bumped; it was clear that that was the case when
we booked it, but it's never happened before.
So here we are. I have a union meeting in an hour, at which I'm pretty sure the
recommendation is going to be to vote against the administration's "final offer" (the second
mediator gave up on the process Sunday night, and said in his report the administration's
offer was the only one that made any sense, so the administration is asking the Labour Board
to force a vote). The vote will be Monday, probably, and if it's No my guess is that we'll lose
the term (the first time in Canadian history, anyway, that a labour dispute has shut a place
down). What _that_ would mean for our booking at the conference centre, I have no idea, but
my expectation would be that a lockout would be put back in place and the administration
would wait for the union to collapse. Or maybe we'll go on negotiating into the term, though
on what basis isn't clear to me.
Yes, I know, this is not believable.
I should put off sending this till after the union meeting, I guess, but I'm not going to
procrastinate yet again: probably at the end of the meeting I'll really know no more than I do
Let me say this: We'll have Inkshed 25 in Fredericton, and it'll be the scheduled dates, May
15-18 (I know there've been questions raised about the dates, too, but I don't think there are
realistic alternatives), and there'll be a call for proposals in the next few days. Bear with us . .
For further information:
My position at the outset of this (short version: a plague on both your houses) is here:
A pretty full analysis of what's at stake, really, is here: http://tinyurl.com/2xqwk3
And a summary of the mediator's final report is here: http://tinyurl.com/27ccb7
Russell A. Hunt
Department of English
St. Thomas University
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