Striking faculty at St. FX reject bid to end strike
Faculty and support staff are on strike at St. Francis Xavier University, prompting the university to postpone classes.
Published Friday, February 8, 2013 6:05PM AST
ANTIGONISH, N.S. -- The union representing striking faculty at Nova Scotia's St. Francis Xavier University has rejected a bid by the school's board of governors to end a strike that is poised to enter its third week.
The board's executive committee issued a statement Friday asking the union to either present the university's latest offer to faculty members for a vote or submit to final-offer selection arbitration.
Union president Peter McInnis said neither option would be considered and he accused the university of bargaining in bad faith by repeatedly making offers through the media.
"It's an attempt to again fragment the membership by not giving the (union) executive an opportunity to duly deliberate on these offers," he said in an interview.
"The only way forward is to continue in collective bargaining."
University spokesman Ramsay Duff said the board of governors stepped in because there's a growing concern negotiations are approaching an impasse.
"The board of governors now believe that any further negotiations would be imprudent as the financial situation of the university is already in a crisis," said Duff, the university's vice-president of finance.
The two sides exchanged offers earlier this week, but that led nowhere.
Duff said final-offer arbitration would require an independent arbitrator to select between proposals submitted by the union and the university. There are no negotiations in such a process.
"There is no compromise or middle ground allowed by the arbitrator," he said.
If the union accepted that process, classes would resume as early as next week, Duff added.
McInnis dismissed the university's approach as unproductive and underhanded.
About 400 professors and academic staff at the school in Antigonish walked off the job Jan. 28 in a bid to secure higher pay and better job security for contract and sessional staff.
There's about 4,000 students at the university, which has remained open since the strike began.
The university revised its four-year contract offer on Tuesday, which led the St. Francis Xavier Association of University Teachers to make a counter-offer.
The new offer from the school would increase salaries 1.5 per cent for two years, then by two per cent in the third year and 2.25 per cent in the final year.
The union didn't release details of its counter-offer, but it had been asking for a 10 per cent salary increase over the four years.
McInnis says the gap between the sides is about $200,000, however university president Sean Riley says the union's counter proposal would add about $700,000 to the administration's offer.