As the University’s Administration works on getting its financial house in order, the Brock University Faculty Association is determined not to let it do it at the expense of quality education.
“We’re… very concerned we might see more layoffs … which we saw quite a few of last year,” BUFA President Linda Rose-Krasnor said in an interview for a news story about the Board of Trustees’ approval last week of the University’s 2014-15 budget.
Brock’s Administration reported the budget includes a $3.2-million deficit projection for 2014-15. That’s an improvement to the $14.5-millilon deficit that was the starting point for 2013-14. However, audited financial statements for 2013-14 reported an “accrual surplus” of $6.5 million for last year. The difference was attributed to the difference between two accounting systems – cash accounting and accrual accounting.
BUFA needs more time to understand the meaning and implications of the “accrual surplus” in 2013-14. However, it’s an encouraging sign that the University was able to report a surplus.
The approval of the 2014-15 budget occurred in the context of ongoing contract negotiations between BUFA, which represents approximately 570 faculty and professional librarians, and the University Administration. Talks began in May to renew the collective agreement, which expired June 30, 2014. Progress has been slow, prompting BUFA to request that both sides invite a Ministry of Labour mediator to help find common ground. The University agreed and mediation is scheduled to begin on August 6.
The Administration has tabled what BUFA’s Chief Negotiator Charles Burton described as a “massive, unprecedented proposal” that would take away many of the gains that were made over the course of previous collective agreements.
BUFA’s main concerns are about the erosion of educational quality, shared academic decision-making, and academic freedom that would result if the Administration’s proposals were to become part of a new Collective Agreement.
The 2014-15 budget also falls in the context of significant layoffs the Administration has made in other sectors of the University’s operations, where employees either are represented by other unions or have no union representation at all.
The Administration is starting 2014-15 less in the red than it began the previous fiscal year. BUFA is optimistic that by starting less in the red, there will be less cutting necessary to close the gap between spending and income this year.
Dr. Rose-Krasnor said she was encouraged by the transparency the Administration showed in the preparation of its 2014-15 budget. Past budget processes have not been as transparent and BUFA hopes more transparency is the new norm.