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Strike action begins at Memorial University of Newfoundland after deadline passes

Google Street View image of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland (Google Maps) Google Street View image of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland (Google Maps)
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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -

More than 800 faculty members at Newfoundland's Memorial University are on strike.

The Memorial University of Newfoundland Faculty Association confirmed in an email to The Canadian Press that the job action began at midnight NST after the deadline passed to reach an agreement with the school.

MUNFA issued a statement Sunday saying talks with the university's administration had reached an impasse, which prompted the union to call on its members to prepare to strike on Monday morning.

The faculty union at Memorial said Sunday the university's administration has barely budged on key issues after more than a year of collective bargaining.

The administration issued a statement Sunday saying its latest contract offer represents substantial improvements in terms of salary, increased benefits for term appointments, enhanced parental leave and increased compensation for teaching extra courses.

The union's statement goes on to say it is ready to resume talks with the university.

"Because of the administration's unwillingness to negotiate on these issues, it appears that no more can be achieved until after our membership demonstrates its strength on the picket lines," the union said in a statement.

Dr. Neil Bose, the university's vice-president academic, called on the union to present the offer to its membership before moving forward with strike action.

Bose said the university is offering a 12 per cent pay raise over four years, which would bring an average tenure-track salary to $164,084 by September 2026. The administration says the union is asking for a 14 per cent raise over four years.

As well, the university is offering an additional 20 weeks of supplemented parental leave, increased compensation for teaching additional courses and increased benefits for those on term appointments.

"We believe the university's current offer is fair and balanced," Bose said in a statement. "We believe this shows a willingness by the university to reach a middle ground. We encourage (the union) to come back to the negotiating table so that we can minimize disruption for students."

As that labour dispute comes to a head, most of the faculty members at Cape Breton University in Sydney, N.S., were expected to continue a strike that started Friday, forcing the cancellation of most classes. And faculty at Saint Mary's University in Halifax could go on strike as early as Feb. 24.

At CBU, the faculty's union has said it is seeking pay raises to deal with the soaring cost of living, but it is also calling for changes to how the university is dealing with a rapidly growing population of international students.

The university's latest wage proposal offers an increase of eight per cent over the next three years, in addition to existing annual step increases. The administration says the union is seeking a 14 per cent raise over the next two years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 29, 2023.

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