February 20th, 2019

MHC faculty agrees to 2-year wage freeze

By COLLIN GALLANT on February 12, 2019.

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

Faculty members at Medicine Hat College have agreed to a two-year wage freeze in a new contract that includes non-cash changes to benefits and better stature for long-term employees who hold part-time positions.

The agreement, signed in late October, but only published this week, replaces a collective agreement with 260 instructors that expired last June.

The new pact, which expires in June 2020, includes no wage increases in keeping with the provincial government’s bargaining stance, but was relatively easy to hammer out, said officials with both the administration and faculty association.

The contract won’t affect staffing levels and provides some new flexibility for instructors to improve themselves professionally.

The president of the local faculty association, Janice Kirchner, said the two sides have a “wonderful working relationship” and with wages largely off the table, talks progressed well.

“It was really mandated by the government that it would be zero wage increase – across the province there have been no raises unless their was a previous contract year – and that was not unexpected,” she said.

Terri Chapman, the college’s vice-president of academics, described the deal as “all for the good of the faculty, administration and the students.”

Among larger non-monetary issues, hours for nursing instructors will be brought in line with other faculties, and a new job category will be created for some part-time instructors.

Previously all non-full-time instructors were limited to eight-month contract terms, but, for some recurring positions, that’s been extended to 10 months.

“Efforts for professional development have always been good and that’s continuing to be supported,” said Kirchner.

She said that will add some stability for veteran part-time instructors with the addition of requirements for office hours and professional development.

“There are lots of opportunity for faculty (members) to adjust workloads to so they can go on with their professional development,” said Chapman.

“That’s good for scholarship and the students.”

Depending on the outcome of negotiations with support workers as the college, Easter Monday in 2020 could be added as a day off at the facility.

Chapman said management has scheduled that day to be a non-instructional day, but it could be an unpaid day given to create a four-day weekend with official statutory holiday of Good Friday.

As well, employees will have their health and wellness spending account limits increase by $150, depending on the outcome of talks between the college and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, which represents 163 support employees represented by. Those workers have been without a current contract since June 2017.

Also in October, faculty members at Bow Valley College accepted no wage increases as part of 2018-20 contract years. Red Deer College instructors received raises of 2 and 1 per cent after renewing a long-expired contract that also covers the 2016 and 2017 contract periods.

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