As many of you already know, the Liberal government of Stephen McNeil has introduced Bill 100 which, if voted into law, will provide unprecedented sweeping power to the University Administration under a “revitalisation plan” to
o forbid the signing of any collective agreement
o ban strikes
o remove the ability of unionized employees to start or continue any grievance that relates to the revitalization plan or process
These fundamental rights have been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada. In the recent Mounted Police Association of Ontario case, the Supreme Court of Canada declared that a “meaningful process of collective bargaining” is consistent with the guarantee of freedom of association enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights. In the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour case, the Supreme Court of Canada said “The right to strike is protected by virtue of its unique role in the collective bargaining process”. This unconstitutional Bill can possibly threaten Academic Freedom. Academic freedom permits faculty to choose their areas of research and teaching, and the freedom to criticize institutional and commercial interests in Nova Scotia and the world. This is in doubt under s. 12 of Bill 100, which reads:
12 (1) A university’s revitalization plan must include
(g) goals and objectives for contributing to social and economic development and growth in the Province, including … turning research into business opportunities, fostering a skilled, entrepreneurial and innovative workforce needed for economic growth in the Province …;
(h) a plan for the effective exchange of knowledge and innovation with the private sector, including excellent collaboration between the university and industry;
This provision has two effects. First, it is inconsistent with a collective agreement right of academic freedom to write and speak about areas of interest to faculty, including criticism of industry. The inconsistency of s. 12 of the Bill with the academic freedom provisions of many faculty collective agreements is a substantial interference with collective bargaining. Second, it is unlikely that any revitalization plan would support liberal arts programs in any struggling university. Those programs will not be able to turn research into business opportunities.
Our Union is about to enter negotiation. This Bill can affect our ability to get a negotiated agreement. We need you, SMUFU members, to speak out. Write to your MLA that you disagree with Bill 100, that you want your rights to engage in collective bargaining, to strike and to grieve under the collective agreement, rights protect by the Canadian Charter of Rights, to be upheld.
Come and protest on Friday May 1st, at 5:30 pm on Halifax Grand Parade to show your opposition to this Bill. Let’s rally behind the SMUFU Banner. Remember that the dangers of inaction are far greater than those of actions.