St. FX presents revised offer to striking faculty
Published Tuesday, February 5, 2013 11:07AM AST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 6, 2013 11:09AM AST
ANTIGONISH, N.S. -- The union representing striking faculty at Nova Scotia's St. Francis Xavier University is reviewing a revised contract offer tabled Tuesday by the school's administration.
About 400 professors and academic staff at the school in Antigonish, N.S., walked off the job eight days ago in a bid to secure better job security for contract and sessional staff.
The university posted the revisions to its four-year offer on Tuesday evening.
The previous proposal offered raises of 1.5 per cent for two years, followed by 1.75 per cent in the third year and two per cent in the fourth year.
The new offer is for 1.5 per cent for two years, with two per cent in the third year and 2.25 per cent the final year.
The union had asked for 10 per cent over the four years.
The new offer is also adding some retirement incentives for some professors and librarians, health care and dental benefits for part-time staff, a professional development allowance and minimum contract lengths for some instructors.
The university website says, "the university expects this offer to lead to a tentative agreement."
Ramsay Duff, the university's vice-president of finance, said in an interview before the offer was posted that the administration is in a bind because it has to factor in a 10 per cent reduction in government funding.
"The university is struggling to pay for extra weeks that are not tied directly to academic work," he said in an interview.
As well, layoffs are expected in the months ahead, regardless of what happens with the labour dispute, he added.
"The offers that we have made and have on the table now are still going to result in these reductions in services and layoffs," he said.
The administration has already provided the faculty association with the university's latest financial data to illustrate the financial challenges it faces, he said.
Peter McInnis, president of the St. Francis Xavier Association of University Teachers, said the union has known about possible restructuring for some time.
He said the issue is separate from the issues at the centre of the faculty strike.
"To link them as they've done today is unhelpful and is an attempt to muddy the waters," he told radio station CJFX.
Still, McInnis said the union's negotiating team and executive will assess the revised offer and decide whether to present it to the union membership for a vote.
There's about 4,000 students at the university, which has remained open since the strike began.
Duff said if the union accepts the latest offer, classes could resume in as little as 48 hours.
"Our expectation would be that the students would return to class and the term would be of the same length and the required academic work would be completed in the remaining period," Duff said.
He was unavailable for comment Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, the St. Francis Xavier Students Union issued an open letter Tuesday urging both sides to reach a resolution.
The letter says the uncertainty surrounding classes and degree completion is causing great stress among the student body.