There are signs of growing labour unrest at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., where unionized faculty have been on strike since Monday.

Adding fuel to the fire, more than 100 cleaners and maintenance staff have rejected the university’s latest contract offer.

“They’re still very much energized,” says union president Peter McInnis of staff on the picket lines. “It’s quite an experience. It’s day three, the weather is variable, but the spirits are high.”

Their spirits were bolstered following the contract vote by the university’s maintenance and ground workers.

Despite only a modest wage increase, the bargaining committee for CAW Local 2107 recommended accepting the deal. However, 87 per cent of its membership turned it down.

“I kind of seen it coming,” says union member Gail Fraser. “I was a little shocked with the margin of rejecting the contract.”

This kind of labour unrest is unusual for St. FX and comes at a time when university officials say they are running a multi-million deficit this year, and facing further deficits over the next two years.

“These are coming as a result of cuts in government funding, two years of cuts, and two years ahead of us potentially of cuts, as well as capped tuition,” says Ramsay Duff, vice-president of finance at the university. “It’s simply a case that we don’t have the revenues.”

Students say they are caught in the middle and hope a resolution comes quickly.

“Mostly just trying to keep up with my work and make sure that I’m keeping up with everything so that when they come back off the strike I’m caught up on all my work,” says student Mike Zablock.

“It’s really affecting us and we don’t have much that we can do, and if the cleaning guys go on strike, then I don’t know what’s going to happen to our residence. It may get a little, a little dirty,” says student Mike Brown.

Meanwhile, a third union is also in contract negotiations with the university. NSGEU Local 88 is scheduled to go back to the bargaining table on Feb. 14.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Dan MacIntosh