Spirits were high among striking faculty, librarians, lab instructors and extension staff at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish on Friday as the two sides in the contract dispute met for informal talks.

Peter McInnis, the president of the St. FX Association of University Teachers, told CBC News progress was made during a meeting with the university administration on Friday afternoon.

He said he anticipates the two sides could meet again over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the 400 striking members of the St. FX Association of University Teachers received cheques from other faculty unions during a rally on Friday.

Brian Brown, of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, gave the local union a cheque for $1 million — an interest-free loan from the national body.

Brown said representatives from faculty unions across the country will come to Antigonish once a week to join the St. Francis Xavier workers on the picket line.

"The reputation of this university is on the line the longer we're out," said Colleen Cameron, a striking faculty member.

"What we're asking for is respect. That's basically what it is: treat us with respect, listen to us and negotiate."

Members of the St. FX Association of University Teachers — who have been on strike since Monday — were also joined at the rally by representatives from the two other unions on campus, university students and area residents.

'Lots of people have left'

Catherine Dalley, who lives on campus, said most of the students had gone home to wait out the strike.

"Out of our residence there's probably about 120 and we went for dinner last night and there's probably about 40 of us. Lots of people have left," she said.

Lauren Percival said there's no consensus among students about which side in the dispute is right.

"Some people are in favour for the teachers some people are a little bit angry at the teachers. I've been hearing mixed sides every day," she said.

"It goes back and forth."

The union is arguing for higher wages, better working conditions, permanent status for teachers who are hired on contract and expanded health and dental benefits.

The university administration, meanwhile, has said the union's demands have been "well beyond the university's financial capability."

With files from The Canadian Press