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Friday 19 May 2023

New (or updated) in Phonetic sharesies

 I've updated two files. gradesheet eg.xlsx now includes some extra formulaes, in particular ones that correctly fill in gradepoints and sums gradepoints while in progress, and I've added color coding to the final grades

IPA reference chart.pdf has added several corrections, including symbols which require leading zeros as opposed to those that don't, and I've added a column for Praat input codes.  Almost added alternations to UCLABet that I use for Praat and in spreadsheets, but those are mostly just common English phonemes and major allophones.  I need to do something like that for a course in the fall, so I'll still be working on it, but in the meantime it doesn't really belong in a reference chart for 'all available' IPA characters.

Friday 27 January 2023

(Bell)Let'sTalk about talking

 Hey there, teddyboos.  It's been a year, almost.

But this afternoon someone asked if there was goign to be any talk about Bell Let's Talk day (about removing or reducing the stigma aaround mental illness). And I'd honestly forgotten about BLT day except for one post from Bell on the 25th of January, which I ignored.  

But we need to talk about mental illness, and we need to remove the stigma both surrrounding mental illness(es) and talking about mental illness(es).  So here I am,  in the few minutes I have before I have to head off to something else.

I think in general mental and physical  health are things we should be talking about, or at least be  able to talk about.  I get that no one wants to discuss their own, or others', digestive failures, or whatever, or details about this medical test, that procedure, this hospital stay, etc.

But there's nothing wrong with 'Oh, Alex's stomach is acting up again', followed by more details if anyone wants (and Alex and others are willing to share.  So here's me sharing.

I was on leave last term, which meant that a) I was supposed to be working on a book, and b) I didn't have day-to-day duties at school.  In the interest of full disclosure, the book didn't get done, but I made progress, which is more than could be said,  really, up to that point. So yay me. on that score.  But the not having day-to-day things that had to happen--like appearng at the office, being ready to teach classes, going to meetings etc. really did a number of my circadian rhythms and my diet.

So first, after the end of classes last spring, I started trying to devote actual time to the book, and to cleaning house. Neither got done, and either could have gone better and further, but whatever.  Being a grown up and doing laundry and changing the sheets and takign out the garbage and so on are tasks that are never 'done' ("this adulting thing never ends, does it?" Rob earnestly asks hsi therapist the last time he actually saw him.)  So progress of any kind is to be rewarded and regarded as an achievement.  And so it has.

But anyway, by June I had become  almost completely nocturnal. Never a morning person, not having anything forcing me to be out of bed, acceptably dressed (which in lockdown and Zoom-class times is not really an issue), I more often than not did not begin my day at what you might call socially regular hours. For going on six months or so my day started sort of at the crack of dusk. I'd eat one decent, balanced meal, maybe with an honest to goodness snack-sized snack a few  hours before or after ('supper' was often around 10 pm), and I'd try to get various stuff done and finally climb back into bed around 4 or 5 in the morning. Sleep until early afternoon, fiddle on the devices for a couple hours, and get up. Rinse and repeat ad nauseam.   

Which actually I woudln't mind keeping up with for the rest of my life, although the rest of humanity doesn't really make that  a workable option.

I spent August trying desperately to get to the point where I could be vaguely lucid and presentable by at least 9am. Didn't really get the hang until school started.  We're about 3 weeks in now and I'm still not settled into that routine.  On the other hand, I'm taking my pills more regularly than I have been, and I have actually gotten a lot of work done during work hours. Which for me are usually like 9:30-10 to about 6 or 6:30.  Not that every minute is work. I do my share of facebooking and twittering and playing West of Loathing (for some reason) during those hours, but for the most part the work day is spent working more than otherwise, and non-work days are seeing (to be honest, some serious sleepign in) and some work-work and house-work as 

So how is my mental health? I have no idea.  How is yours? I hope good.

Thursday 19 May 2022

Here I go, lurching from one technological problem to another

 So here's how things are going.

Bought an iPad Mini to replace the iPad that died three (or more?) years ago.  Which is a lucky thing because last night, my only functioning computer, which is the Surface Laptop, has been making scary fan noises, off and on.  Started while ago, went away for a few weeks, and came back this week.  So fortunately I was able to Zoom from the iPad and not all was awful.

Last couple days, I assume because of the rain, I've lost power at least twice.  Once sometime while I was asleep Tuesay night/Wednesday morning (I know because the thermostat had turned itself off, and the range and microwave clocks were (are) blinking at me.  Then just as we were coming to the end of today's Zoom, it went out again.  At least it was at the end of the meeting and not the middle.

So now the question is should I replace the dead desktop so I can work again, hopefully with somethng that will run a webcam if it ever has to, or do I replace the perfectly healthy, as far as I can tell, except for the scary, scrapy fan noises, laptop? And if so, can I do it in the next week, so I can burn through some professional development funds rather than spend another $1000 on replacement technology for the second time in two weeks?

Oh, and I've gotten frantic texts from Facebook, Amazon, and Google that some of my passwords have appeared in a databreach. So I guess this is a cue to change all my passwords.  Including the ones that must be 6-8 digits, that must be 8-12 characters, that must be at least 10 characters, must include letters and digits but the first one must be a letter, must include a capital letter, a lower case letter, a digit, and a special character (selected from .,!?* or _, or from !#$%^&*()<>.) And of course I should have different passwords on every application.

Ah, well, at least I don't teach again until January.

Tuesday 7 December 2021

And suddenly, everything is supposed to be back to normal

 Well, not normal, but as normal as they can be.

This will be my last blog for a while. I'll try to do this more regularly, but daily is kind of a drag without something interesting like the strike to talk about.

Late Sunday night, some kind of deal had been reached. Agreements were made on several governance issues, a few were compromised, and I'm pleased to say that some things that the Dark Side had been insisting on were withdrawn completely. It was agreed which issues to send to arbitration, and a rough timeline for arbitration has been worked out.

So Monday (was that only yesterday) the union called a special general meeting. We heard details about the tentative agreement, and there was some lively discussion of what had been and had not been accomplished. Then there was the vote, which was conducted online, via secret e-ballot, making use of some fancy secure system that one of our board members knows how to use. The vote was to ratify the agreement, and head back to work.

Which meant that at least for some members, classes resumed at something like 8 this morning. Gag.

I've spent the day (and most of yesterday) trying to figure out how the rest of my classes is going to go, and crafting communications to students to get ready for our first meetings back, tomorrow.

So we're not on strike anymore, interrupted classes are now back in session, and hopefully we've made some advances toward the better university we all want. And in a few months, because I guess that's how long it takes, there will be arbitration on remaining issues. Nobody got everything they wanted (in particular the College of Nursing will pursue some other means of getting what they need), some things were compromised, some things withdrawn, and letters of understanding have been settled. Or settled enough that the executive of the union unanimously recommended ratification.

So that's it. The end of #umfaStrike #umfa2021. A three-year contract (retroactive to last April), so with any luck we won't be in this position again in 2024, but at least it will be until then.

Today was the first (weekday) since November 2nd that my day didn't start (because I'm not a morning person) with the daily meeting of my strike cluster. These are people I'd never met before, from both campuses and several faculties and libraries. I know very little about most of their personal lives, and even less about their actual work (although of course I know a little about what fields everyone is in, because academics can't help but talk about their work), but union solidarity, shared experience, and if nothing else proximity and time, but I've come to think of them as good, if not close, friends. I'm going to miss them.

I hope when we get our brunch reunion planned we can all stand being in each other's physical presence ;)

Monday 6 December 2021

Five weeks in limbo

 We awoke this morning to the news that a tentative agreement had been reached, and we'd be voting on it tonight. I just cast my vote. I won't talk about specifics because I'm not sure I have any, but eleven intensive days of bargaining (and coming up against the tomorrow deadline, after which Bad Things happen. Worse things than would happen anyway.  Much worse.) seemed to actually see more action than the previous weeks/months of bargaining. Take that for what it's worth.

Lots of governance issues agreed on, at least one kind of watered down to make it acceptable to admin. and probably others, but the things that I was most concerned about were agreed to, albeit in watered down form. A half dozen really egregious admin demands that I didn't know had been demanded were withdrawn. So while those issues aren't 'settled', at least they're off the table for life of this contract.

Salary grids adjusted, pending arbitrator decisions about actual $$$. I hope my instructor friends are happy. Some will benefit a lot from the new salary grids. Others not so much, but nobody loses anything, except potentially in the maximum potential lifetime earnings category.

What I want to point out is this is the nature of compromise. Nobody is objectively 'happy' with the result, but everybody finds it acceptable enough to go ahead with it. UMFA executive unanimously recommends ratification, thinking we're not going to do any better, and in fact chances are good we'll do pretty well in arbitration on the numbers. There is of course a significant faction of members who don't like it, feel like we've given up to much (again), want to stay on strike and really put the screws to admin, Bad Things be d*mned. So ratification isn't a slam dunk.

So two hours and change of meeting, and now we vote. Until 11:30pm. So we should know something sometime after 11:30pm. But exactly when isn't clear, but it has to be enough time so that people with 8:30am classes in the morning have time to do something about it. I don't teach until Wednesday, so I can wait to find out in the morning. Which may be when I end this daily-strike-diary nonsense.  We'll see.

Friday 3 December 2021

Entering a second weekend of intensive post-mediator bargaining

I don't really know what mediators do, and especially I do not know what our mediator did. Readers will recall that last week around this time, the mediator declared that in his estimation bargaining/mediation had failed, recommended arbitration, and resigned. Immediately followed by some Dark Side propaganda that, although they had accepted the mediator's recommendation, UMFA had 'rejected' mediation.  Which wasn't strictly true: UMFA had rejected unconditional binding arbitration, because there are governance issues that, frankly, a non-academic arbitrator is not likely to fully understand. Which I won't go into because I'm not sure I understand them either. There is also the question of the back-to-work protocol, i.e. are we going to be compensated for all the extra work is going to be required to finish out the term and Winter, are they going to contribute to pension and health care, whether the days spent on strike can still be counted toward pension, and so on.

Arbitration, in the best case, can take months, so not having a back-to-work protocol settled before arbitration would be a huge pain for everyone, including the arbitrator, since we'd go back to work basically immediately and anything back-to-work-wise probably won't be remotely relevant when we get a decision from the arbitrator. So it sounds like that's what is at the top of the list to get settled.

I'm rather fascinated by the apparent sequence of events that surrounded the last bit of mediation. I only have the word of certain members of the collective agreement committee, who advise the bargaining committee, and whatever information put out by the union (which again, may be true, but possibly not strictly true at first blush). Before the mediator came in, bargaining seems to have occurred face-to-face, that is with the union's bargaining committee and the Dark Side's bargaining committee (who appears to be headed by a non-academic lawyer--who it must be said, specializes in labo(u)r and employment law--who reportedly was not only the designated speaker for the committee, but apparently the principle 'voice'), facing each other across a table and yelling at each other.*

When the mediator was hired (at mutual acceptance--the mediator is also a non-academic lawyer, but specialized in public-sector labor law), the model appears to have changed. Readers of this blog will recall my assumption, that the introduction of the mediator involved the same two committees facing each other over a table and yelling, but with the impartial mediator keeping a rein on things. This appears to not be the case.

Mediation, at least the last bit of it, involved the union bargainers and the Dark Side bargainers having separate meetings with the mediator, and the mediator conducting 'shuttle diplomacy' between them. Well, according to sources in the union, the mediator somehow failed to completely or fully represent the offer to the Dark Side, which readers of this blog will recall was followed by a refusal to counter by the Dark Side. Exactly what the mediator did or did not communicate, or how, is not clear to me. But the result appears to have been that the Dark Side was not fully presented with a reasonable attempt at compromise, and thus declined to counter.

I do not in any way suggest that the mediator was negligent or partisan. I do suggest that somewhere between UMFA and the mediator, and then the mediator and the Dark Side, Something Went Wrong.** At a town hall, we learned that the president of the university and the president of the union met shortly after the mediator's report. The union indicated that they did not want to go to unconditional arbitration, and instead wanted to continue to bargain out some issues at the table. The president of the university was apparently surprised by this, and immediately called to inform the bargaining committee, essentially, 'cancel your weekends; we're going back to the table'.  There followed a long, exhausting weekend of intensive face-to-face bargaining.

Reports from friends in the union suggest that, while there was nothing settled and the gulf(s) remained wide, that weekend was the first time in a long time that they felt like the Dark Side was actually willing to bargain, and consider compromising on some things. This intensive bargaining continued all this week and will continue this weekend.

So what I find interesting is that the mediator was brought in after weeks (months?) of face-to-face bargaining. And in spite of expertise and experience, and no doubt Herculean labo(u)r, didn't seem to broker any kind of substantial compromise. Remove the mediator (and setting aside his, in my opinion, alarming recommendations), and 'suddenly' we seem to really have bargaining. No idea if arbitration became the common enemy, or the mediator's report made this clearly the last ditch effort for both sides, or what. But there we are, or were.

Both sides appear to agree on at least some issues that can be sent to the arbitrator, and so can concentrate on the remaining governance issues, including (especially?) the back-to-work protocol. So with slightly less stuff (and generally less overtly costly stuff) the subject of nine days (by the time we get to Monday) of intense, face-to-face meetings, I'm feeling a little more optimistic that the end may be in sight, and that we can still avoid the 'nuclear option' of being forced into binding arbitration (on all issues, and quite possibly the final-offer style of arbitration) after 60 days. 

So hopefully by Monday there will be some kind of News to share. Keep your fingers crossed, prayers flowing, practice gratitude and empathy, and try, like me, to get a good rest this weekend.

*This is the dramatic, made-for-TV version, of course. I assume in real life it was a perfectly respectful and collegial exchange.

**As someone who is currently writing a textbook about communication breakdown, I think this is going to be a fruitful example, at least for the next couple terms I teach communication disorders, while the strike is still looming in people's minds.

Thursday 2 December 2021

Thirty-one days hath Strikevember

"Striketober" is more mellifluous, and I refuse to consider "Strikecember" at the moment, but here we are.  Today is day 31 of #umfa2021 @umfastrike, and everyone is feeling it. During the strike I've been trying to keep to this blog, daily, on strike matters and not my usual personal inanity. But today is/was odd, and I want to talk about it. So as I say, here we are. 

In general, I'm in good spirits, strikewise, though of course we're all tired, emotionally and physically, and anxious about a) reaching an agreement (or going to arbitration, or some combination thereof, which seems to be the current Best Case Scenario) and b) getting back to work. This last introducing a bunch of other anxieties, since we still have to get through the last six or so weeks of our classes, final exam period, and start Winter term's classes, all without an obvious break, except for the week between Christmas and New Years. Which will be welcome, but at the moment we're looking at curtailed exam periods, elimination of much of the midterm break for the winter term, and probably some displacement of Spring and Summer term hours. But what will be will be, and we'll cope, one way or another.

But strikewise, we seem to be very aware of the issues that motivate us in this strike (recruitment, retention, university quality, and so on), and additionally many of us are paying attention to our historical position. If you recall in 2016 we were really the first public sector union subjected to the provincial meddling in negotiation. Seeing our situation, several other unions refused to settle for inadequate negotiated outcomes, and remained without a contract for years following.

Now, we seem to be the first major Canadian university faculty association to go on strike.  I've been trying to keep track of who else is in bargaining right now, but York University in Toronto seems to be the U15 university that's closest (both negotiation-wise and calendar-wise) to going out. (Update: Turns out York isn't in the U15.) York's union in question actually doesn't represent full-time faculty, like UMFA, but contract (sessional) instructors, graduate student instructors, TAs, and so on.  In 2018 CUPE 3903 went on strike for 143 days, apparently the longest academic strike in Canadian history. For context, the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 was 43 days. Due to Manitoba labour law that can force both sides into binding arbitration after 60 days, we won't go anywhere near that.  By my count, day 60 is December 27th, possibly the 29th depending on if you count the holidays we will have crossed (Remembrance Day and Christmas).

But I have some personal inanity to talk about, which is that this morning I was late to my cluster meeting because, well, after the alarm went off I managed to doze off again. All things considered a couple extra hours of sleep wasn't a bad idea. And I do feel tired, physically and emotionally. But I draw strength from my cluster-mates and the justness of our cause.

Wednesday 1 December 2021

Another open letter to the chair of the Board of Governors

Dear Ms Hyde:

Today is December 1st and the strike continues beyond the date any of us expected, let alone hoped. I want to begin this by thanking you for your personal response to my previous letter. In this time of seemingly increasing distance it was nice to feel some kind of personal connection to a stranger.

But as I say, the strike continues. Throughout negotiations, UMFA has put forward proposal after proposal, and has been met with at best minimal movement from the administration's bargaining team. Members involved and who have reported their impressions of bargaining and mediation, have indicated that much of the rest of the administration's side don’t seem to be as active participants in the process, and that the head bargainer, Ken Maclean, seems to be perhaps the only consequential voice on the admin side.  Mr Maclean is of course a specialist in labor and employment law, but as an outside litigator how familiar is he with the day-to-day activities of a university?

Employers and educators are finally beginning to realize that a focus on STEM education and outcomes, which seem to be at the forefront of ‘market-driven’ and ‘employer-focused’ educational philosophies, are inadequate in the long term. Many writers opine that the true value of STEM education is the focus on creative problem solving and critical thinking, not the factory-output of competent engineers and technicians. Lately, I have been seeing reference to STEAM educational values—science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics—recognizing that traditional university disciplines, rather than being valueless to the marketplace, haave always produced the critical thinkers and problem solvers that employers need now and into the future.  Acquaintances in industry have often said that ‘they can teach them to run the machines and work the numbers. What we can’t do is teach them to read and write’ in illustration of exactly this point. They do not know what skills will be most in demand in five-to-ten years, let alone further along, any more than they (or we) know where the next medical breakthrough or entrepreneurial success will come from. But it will definitely come from someone well practiced in critical thinking, not just numbers and existing solutions.

I speak for no one but myself, but it seems to me that ‘negotiation’ is by definition give-and-take. No one is necessarily 100% pleased with the outcome, but the result should be some kind of ‘acceptable’ middle-ground. It seems that Mr Maclean has shouldered the burden of some arbitrary (or provincially sponsored) line in the sand, and dug in his heels to protect it,, perhaps ignoring even the wisdom of the rest of his team in doing so. He and the bargaining team have not demonstrated fair and good-faith bargaining, as reflected in compromise. If there is any truth in this, regardless of the source of the limitations on the bargaining team’s activity, they do the university community a grave disservice and endanger the long-term health of the university.

This, in my long-winded way, is my way of asking that, as a matter of inexpressible urgency, the Board provide new direction to Mr Maclean and the bargaining team, to look forward to the long-term health of the university, the robustness of the university community and our ability to recruit and retain energetic and imaginative faculty, and our ability to deliver on long-term needs of ‘the market’.


Robert Hagiwara
Department of Linguistics
Currently on legal strike

Tuesday 30 November 2021

Who are we fighting for? and how?

As time goes on, my perspective on these questions is changing. Or expanding, if that's something that a perspective can do.

Obviously we're concerned about our salary structure, our reputation among similar universities, our ability to recruit and retain exciting and dynamic colleagues, other governance issues, intellectual property, etc. No question.

In my mind, we're also fighting for our students, and their education.  The province is/was openly hostile to higher education, and education in general, saying things like programs that don't result in high rates of graduate employment in the relevant field are withotu value, and should be un(der)funded, shrunk, or eliminated outright. This is one of the 'results-based' measures they want to use to evaluate and reward or punish us via the funding model. In fact it is the only measure that anyone seems to ahve mentioned in the last five years, at least.

This attitude has already resulted in overworked (and undersupported) programs (waves at Nursing) that obviously do have recognizable specific employment outcome goals being further inundated with work. See previous posts.

As I hope I have said, what we hear from employers, and have been hearing since No Child Left Behind and the insistence on STEM education as the 'main' purpose of education, is that education should place high value on critical thinking and creative problem solving. At least as much as specific STEM achievements.

I've been seeing recently 'STEAM', science-technology-engineering-arts-mathematics, recognizing the importance and utility of arts education in the areas of critical thinking and creative problem solving. Turning the university into a glorified vocational school (no shade on vocational schools, but they're just different from universities), serves no one, least of all students and their future employers, let alone society at large.

One angle I had been vaguely aware of but only recently started to appreciate, was our role in history. Winnipeg is pretty famous for the 1919 General Strike, which was a landmark in worker rights, human rights, and labor relations law. The way Covid has of course changed everything, in big and small ways. Most courses are being offered online (which is problematic because the administration seems to think this is a nifty way to bypass class(room) size limitations).  But (as in 2016) our contract negotiations were in their way precedential. 

In 2016 negotiations, due to unlawful government interference, the admin suddenly (and at the time inexplicably) pulled a salary offer off the table. This was the province's first salvo in what ended up being the Public Sector Sustainability Act which after the Throne Speech last week was declared officially dead, thank heavens). So we were the first public-sector union to test bargaining in the then-austerity-happy climate.

What's interesting is that there are several faculty associations around Canada (I counted at least four, possibly more--I'm hoping to track down, or make, a proper list to continue in the practice of gratitude) that are also in negotiation, or about to enter negotiation, over their contracts, and they either have called or expect to call for a strike vote. So they are looking at our negotiation.

The union especially has received word from faculty associations, and other unions, for advice about not only organizing a strike, but especially organizing online or virtual picketing activity. So I thought I'd go into it a little, from the perspective of an online picketer.

First of all, most members who are striking are on regular sign-holding traffic-slowing, picketing. Owing to my Achilles tendon, I haven't been on the line this year or in 2016.  In 2016 I did my strike duty in a support position driving a van, transporting picket captains, bringing coffee and snacks to the lines, running the odd errand, etc. 

This year, some 200 of us asked to be accommodated, for physical limitations, for child care issues, for being out of the city/province, etc., by becoming 'online picketers' which is something the union made up this year.  I don't know how all it got organized, but online picketers are organized into 'clusters'.  Each cluster meets for an hour via Zoom, to talk about our activities, our challenges, our ideas, to get updates about what's going on in negotiation, or on the picket lines, or where the union would like is to concentrate some of our activity.  Then we spend the rest of our daily strike time engaged in online or offline activities in support of the strike. For me, this blog is a big part of my activity, followed by time on Facebook and Twitter, liking, sharing, retweeting, and commenting on strike related posts, and combing media outlets (the Winnipeg Free Press, the CBC, CTV and Global news coverage) for strike related information, posting or tweeting it as appropriate, and occasionally writing in to correct misinformation. Some of my colleague spend more time on TikTok or Instagram or any of the other social media outlets. I just happen to be an FB and Twitter person.

Some of my colleagues spend their strike time writing and recording songs, and making memes that people like me try to disseminate across social media.  Others spend most of their time writing or phoning the members of the administration, the board of governors, the legislative assembly, the premier's office, the news media, etc. making sure the struggle remains on their minds, trying to get our point of view across, encouraging helpful behaviour and occasionally calling people out on bad behaviour.  

So we're fortunate that there are enough of us that we can keep all the live picketing zones live for the hours they're scheduled (something like 7am to 7pm, or maybe it's 4 or 5pm now, for them to have settled on three hour picketing shifts, daily. For us online picketers, our three hours includes our daily cluster meeting, and (at least) two additional hours engaged in whatever activity we can that doesn't involve walking in a circle, off and on, for three hours.

I have to say, the daily cluster meetings are a high-point of my day. I get to see (and meet) new colleagues, we get to support each other through our doubts and bad moods and discouragements. We get to hear more about what's going on in negotiations than our live picketers, share ideas and activities, frustrations and achievements.  

So I hope we're also inspiring our fellow union-members and fellow unions, as well as helping to pave the online way for conducting a strike during Covid.

Monday 29 November 2021

Day 28

 Well, Happy Monday. Also Happy Hanukkah, for those who partake. I had a good weekend. Slept about 12 hours Friday night-Saturday noonish, and seven hours each last night and the night before, in the case of yesterday accompanied by about five hours lazing in bed, watching videos and catching up on the curling trials.

So before we get into strike stuff, many congratulations to Team Jones and Team Gushue, who yesterday won the women's and men's team curling trials and became the first Canadian athletes named to Team Canada for the 2022 winter Olympic games in Beijing. Apparently. I'm not sure how most sports work in most countries, but I know there are a few teams who were selected to represent their countries at the Olympics some time ago. In a similar vein that some countries put all their eggs in one team basket for the European Championships.  Which, by the way, were also decided this weekend, with Team Muirhead and Team Mouat, both of Scotland, one the women's and men's championships respectively. First time both winning teams represented one country. But back to Olympic curling talk. Jones won gold in curling in 2014 in Sochi. Gushue one his gold medal in Torino in 2006. So this is gonna be fun.

Bargaining update: Intensive bargaining happened this weekend, which is interesting because the mediator issued a report repeating his recommendation of binding arbitration and promptly resigned.  I don't know how many weeks or months this mediator had been engaged, and I know nothing about mediation, but it seems to me to be bad form to resign before the parties agree to move to the next step.  Reportedly, some progress (tiny steps) was made this weekend. 

UMFA is willing to arbitrate money (i.e. salaries, grids, scales), but wants governance language locked down. The mediator, in his recommendation, tried to assure us that the arbitrator, whoever it ends up being, would not be (or feel) bound by provincial mandate or fear of provincial reprisals, and that they would give fair hearing to outstanding issues of governance.

However, UMFA has reason to believe that the arbitrator, whoever it is, might well be swayed by provinicial mandate, and might choose to ignore the outstanding governance issues.  Issues of contractual language guaranteeing, for instance, time away from the classroom to research and retool courses, are famously not something that get arbitrated. Arbitrators tend not to mess with language.  If it's in the contract, and you're trying to change it, is one thing. Adding new language to a contract, for instance a guarantee that faculty cannot be forced to teach online or at distance (absent public emergency), is not something that arbitrators like to do. Which makes total sense.

But of course, we've been on the losing end of arbitration before. We care about these issues, and taking the advice of previous administrating bargaining teams, we're staying on strike to make sure we get these things settled. Or at least heard.  If these issues aren't included in the contract now, they will just get argued again in the future.

And I am skeptical of assurances that 'we don't need language like that in the contract' since we've never needed it before, and anyone everybody wants the best for everyone.  This may be true, but we can't grieve something that isn't in the contract.  So if some future administration or administrator chooses to ignore established extra-contractual 'understandings', we have no recourse.

This, as I understand it, is the power of the many 'letters of understanding' that seem to accompany collective bargaining. For the duration of the contract, one side assures the other that something will hold. (In the past, this has included things like the administration pledging to keep the number of UMFA members constant, or to replace X out of Y positions, or whatever--so if someone retires or resigns, the administration can't, or at least promises to not, replace all those positions with temporary, sessional positions, but with permanent, tenure-track positions. Or that the admin cannot simply close or eliminate programs, or do so without preserving the positions in question.  Or whatever the issue is.

I've never understood why these things aren't included in the contract, but now I get it. Eventually, it may turn out that the historically significant program in basket-weaving is just of no interest to students, and maybe it should be eliminated, or folded into fine arts or architecture or something.  It's easier to do away with or rewrite letters of understanding than to bargain these things in the contract.  So I get it.

So propaganda to the contrary UMFA has not rejected arbitration.  We have just rejected unconditional arbitration on non-salary related governance. There is no reason for the strike to continue, except that UMFA and the administration cannot agree on what will be put before the arbitrator and what will be settled through bargaining. And UMFA has put forward comprehensive proposals (which may or may not have been communicated properly to the administration--whole other can of worms), but the ball really is in admin's court, to come up with a counter proposal.

And word from the weekend is that bargaining has not reached a standstill. So I'm less anxious than I was that a resolution is possible in the near term. Although my acid stomach from last week hasn't subsided. Nor, actually, has the headache. But maybe another good night's sleep will sort that all out.