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More than $315,000 spent on extra PR, security during UNB labour dispute

Several Right to Information requests have revealed that the University of New Brunswick spent more than $315,000 on extra public relations and security during last year’s labour dispute.

The Daily Gleaner revealed this week that UNB paid $112,400 to National Public Relations from November 2013 through January 2014 “for services ranging from developing public relations strategies during the strike, to media monitoring, producing communications, advertisements and web copy. The firm also received payment for media training, the creation of a temporary labour relations website and ongoing communications consulting.”

The Brunswickan has learned from its own Right to Information request that $203,416 of that total was spent on security from “strike security experts” AFIMAC.
Peter McDougall, associate vice president of human resources and organizational development, said in an emailed statement that hiring such support is not unique to UNB.

“At the time of the strike UNB’s communications team was short staffed due to a maternity leave and the recent departure of the senior manager of communications,” said McDougall.

“There were only three people devoted to communications at that time for both UNB’s Fredericton and Saint John campuses, and there was a very significant increase in the volume of communications activities—including media requests, internal communications, email traffic, social media engagement etc.”

When asked about the numbers for outside security, UNB communications officer Heather Campbell said that internal UNB security personnel “continued to perform their regular duties and did not have the capacity to be present at picket locations to ensure that potential risks were mitigated.”

“We had every confidence that faculty on strike would be professional and respectful, and that is exactly what happened. There was a risk, however, that others coming onto (or passing by) campus might not be familiar with the rights and responsibilities of unionized employees exercising their legal right to strike,” said Campbell.

“While rare, there have been instances in Canada where people were injured at picket sites and we wanted to do all that we could to ensure that our community did not experience this type of incident.”

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