UNBC applies for mediator in talks with faculty

The University of Northern British Columbia is asking Labour Relations Board to appoint a mediator to its faltering negotiations with its professors.

The move was made Wednesday, the UNBC Faculty Association bargaining committee chief negotiator Ted Binnema said in an online posting and comes less than a week after members voted 84-per-cent in favour of giving the committee authority to strike with 72 hours notice.

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"This action delays the date upon which the FA will be in a legal strike position," Binnema said and went to say the committee hopes one will be appointed by the end of this week if not early next week. Once that occurs, talks must continue for 20 days, although there is a small chance the mediator could call it off if the mediation has no chance of success.

"Although our past experience with mediation (in 2012 and 2015) has been that the Employer has sought mediation only to cause delay and to consume our time and energy, we are optimistic that, knowing that they cannot force us into arbitration this time, they really will use this time to table realistic proposals that respect the mandate you have given us," Binnema said.

For its part, UNBC administration said it feels a mediator will "help the parties engage in productive conversations. The Employer has tabled a substantive proposal for the FA to consider and looks forward to continuing those conversations with the help of a mediator."

Faculty have been working at UNBC without a contract since June 30.

At the end of 2015, the association agreed to a five-year deal backdated to July 1, 2014, which provided a 10-per-cent wage increase over the life of the deal.

The contract was the culmination of a lengthy dispute that included mediation, a two-week strike in March 2015 and finally binding arbitration through a process only permitted for first collective agreements.

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