The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says striking University of New Brunswick professors need to keep the state of the provincial economy in mind.
About 550 full-time professors, teaching staff and librarians at UNB's campuses in Fredericton, Saint John, Moncton and Bathurst walked off the job Monday. They're seeking an increase of more than 23 per cent over four years.
Professors at Mount Allison University also voted in favour of a strike on Tuesday night, citing disagreements over salary, pension and benefits.
Kevin Lacey, Atlantic director of the federation, contends the demands of professors are unreasonable in light of the economic situation in New Brunswick.
"The reality is right now there's no money," he said. "Now, that's not the fault of government, and that's not the fault of the students, and that's not even the fault of the university professors. But that is the reality."
'It's like a poker game in that both sides are playing with the house's money. In this case, the money of the taxpayers.' - Kevin Lacey, Canadian Taxpayers Federation
"When we talk about these negotiations that are happening, one of our concerns is it's like a poker game in that both sides are playing with the house's money. In this case, the money of the taxpayers of … New Brunswick."
Lacey says full-time university professors make, on average, double that of the taxpayers who fund the institutions.
"You can make all kinds of various demands, but I think it's incumbent both onto the government as we move forward, but also onto the university administration and to professors, to ensure that we're conducting ourselves in a way that is cognizant of what the demands are on the people who are largely paying the bill at these institutions," he said.
The University of New Brunswick is offering a 9.5 per cent increase over four years, but the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers is demanding pay comparable to other mid-sized universities.
Under the existing contract, the starting salary for an assistant professor in 2009 was $60,948 and the salary floor for a full professor was $94,397.
The salary ceiling for a professor at UNB currently stands at $150,510 under the existing contract.
About 60 per cent of the faculty now earn more than $100,000 a year, according to the administration.