St. FX students brace for potential strike

Students at St. Francis Xavier University say they're becoming nervous as strike action looms at the school.

Faculty in a strike position on January 21

The school's administration says it will not lock out the faculty. (CBC)

Students at St. Francis Xavier University say they're becoming nervous as strike action looms at the school.

Talks between the university and the St. FX Teachers Association broke down Saturday. That triggered a deadline of Jan. 21 for both parties to come to an agreement or teachers would strike.

The prospect of a strike worries students who just returned to classes Monday for the new semester.

"It's very stressful. I want to know whether we will have it or not," said nursing student Jenna Embree.

"I'm actually extremely concerned about that because I came all the way from Vancouver Island. If we were gone for a couple of weeks, it's a lot money to travel," said Justin Holland, a human kinetics student.

Last offer rejected

The university's administration says any decision to suspend classes will be decided by teachers since the university administration said they will not lock the university's doors if an agreement is not reached.

"The only way we will have disruption to classes is if they strike," said Ramsay Duff, the vice-president of administration. "We don't want to see this happen. We urge them to come back to the table."

Peter McInnis says the teachers are also fighting for better working conditions. (CBC)

Teachers rejected an offer Saturday by the university to raise salaries by 6.9 per cent after the union said it is arguing for an increase of 10 or 11 per cent.

"We are asking for something that would be the same as our competitors in the region within Halifax and the other Maritime universities," said Peter McInnis, president of the St. FX Teacher's Union.

McInnis said this isn't just about wage increases. The teacher's union is also asking for better working conditions, permanent status for teachers who are hired on contract, and benefits such as health and dental. He said while the school is investing in residences, the classrooms and equipment are outdated.

But the university's administration said it doesn't have the means to give the teachers what they want.

"The provincial government has cut our funding by 17 per cent over the last four years," "We don't have the funds to meet the demands that they are asking for."