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Early history of AUFA as a trade union.

In the early 1970s a number of problems festered between the not-yet-unionized Acadia University Faculty Association and the University’s Board and Administration. Working conditions were set by a thin “Booklet” which was crafted by the University President with only token input from a “booklet committee” that included a few faculty members.

Two issues brought matters to a climax: A young professor, Robert McCarthy, lost his job, and the President refused to give reasons “on principle.” Then, proposals from the booklet committee for changes in working conditions were summarily dismissed by the President who imposed a new version of the document.

There followed a vigorous unionization drive which engaged faculty from some at the most senior ranks down to some who had only recently arrived. Two of the pioneers of unionization were David Haley, Head of the Mathematics Department, and Lois Vallely-Fischer from History. AUFA formally became a trade union in 1976, making it one of the earliest faculty unions in Canada.

It took two and a half years to negotiate a first collective agreement, often with daily meetings squeezed in between classes and other duties. Several faculty members went through the negotiating team during that exhausting time. The three who were on the team from beginning to end were Pat O’Neill (chief negotiator), Tom Regan, and Lois Vallely-Fischer. O’Neill and Regan were untenured, having arrived only two years before the union drive.

The First Collective Agreement, signed in 1979, gave faculty a say over their working conditions, including grievance procedures, and the right to bargain for wages and benefits. There was still one matter outstanding, however. The union, with the strong support of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, continued to work for a just resolution of the McCarthy case. This was achieved when a new President got the Board to agree to Arbitration, which delivered a stinging rebuke to the Administration for its conduct in the case, and gave Professor McCarthy his job back.

Acadia University is built on the traditional and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq Nation. We are all Treaty People.

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