Does the Université Sainte-Anne administration question the legitimacy of Arbitration?

Church Point, April 2, 2022

In a statement published on April 1, 2022, the Université Sainte-Anne administration has reaffirmed the “impossibility” of an arbitrator making any decision on questions touching on management rights. Any modification to these rights, they claim, would imply “a fundamental modification to the structure and overall mode of operation of our institution.” They affirm that the modifications proposed by the professors and librarians are “unreasonable.” However, it is not for either of the parties involved to determine what is reasonable and what is not – we have arrived at this crossroads precisely because we cannot agree on what is reasonable. It is necessary, therefore, to submit contentious issues to a neutral and impartial person, with knowledge of the university environment and of what exists at other institutions, and leave it to him or her to make a reasonable decision.

Arbitrators are highly qualified legal specialists who would never render a judgement contravening laws specific to Sainte-Anne or, for that matter, contravening any other law, as the university administration seems to fear.  By removing a large number of claims from any arbitration, the administration makes itself the arbiter and would have the process carried out according to its own rules. This is tantamount to asking the Association of Professors and Librarians (APPBUSA) to simply withdraw the demands for which it went on strike in the first place, and to do so before a neutral third party could rule for or against them. By doing this, the administration disavows the official arbitration procedure, by not recognizing the impartiality and legitimacy of the arbitrator.

APPBUSA is requesting binding arbitration, knowing full well that the arbitrator will not grant every union demand. We will comply with the arbitrator’s decisions, but for arbitration to take place, the arbitrator must study the whole file.  APPBUSA calls on the administration to explicitly recognize the legitimacy of arbitration. APPBUSA asks that both parties affirm their full confidence in the arbitration procedure, which will end our dispute and accord our institution a fair agreement.

The administration fears that APPBUSA’s propositions will lead to « co-management, » and conflict of interest. However, APPBUSA is not aiming for “co-management” but simply for collegiality. Collegiality would mean our being informed and consulted when decisions need to be taken. It would mean our being able to shed light on questions and issues confronting the university, by bringing forward the experience of professors and librarians – the people closest to the classrooms, who are most aware of questions and challenges as they occur, day by day. Everyone would benefit if all the members of our university community – students, staff, professors, and administrators – could contribute to improving our institution.

Finally, we must clarify again that the clauses the administration wishes to remove from the arbitration do not only concern management rights, as they have asserted. They also concern the tasks of professors and librarians, hiring and rehiring (and, therefore, job security, which negatively affects the retention of qualified people), course release for research, class size quotas, and so on. All of these issues impact directly on the daily lives of professors and librarians, and inevitably, on the lives of the students. The clauses in question represent legitimate demands for consideration of which, we are on strike, and there is no reason why they should not be subject to arbitration.