St. FX talks to resume on Wednesday
Strike began Jan. 28
Stalled talks in the St. Francis Xavier contract dispute will resume Wednesday morning.
The St. FX Association of University Teachers and the university administration have agreed to sit down Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. and meet on campus in Antigonish.
Professor Peter McInnes, the faculty association president, said there are no limits to what can be negotiated tomorrow.
"We said we won't go back under the terms of last Friday which was arbitration or their offer — because neither of those is acceptable," he said.
"It's hard to say whether this will be constructive or not but we're going back in so maybe this will be the beginning of the end. We hope so."
Last Friday the university offered the AUT the option of entering into arbitration but the union declined.
The two sides remain far apart.
Sean Riley, the president of St. Francis Xavier University, released a statement last Thursday saying the union's counter-proposal "remains well beyond the financial capability of the institution, threatening both short and long-term sustainability."
Meanwhile, the St. FX Association of University Teachers blasted the university administration for exaggerating their requests to the public.
McInnes said it's not clear what will be discussed at Wednesday's meeting but said the association is willing to work towards some kind of an agreement.
"We're not amenable to the terms they sent to us in the letter of last Friday. But of course we're open to reaching a fair and equitable agreement. With that in mind, we hope to have constructive talks and see if we can get the term started as soon as possible."
Salary issues have defined the dispute, but there are other issues around job security and benefits.
Strike began Jan. 28
Students and the St. FX Students' Union called for the AUT and the school's administration to move into binding arbitration on Tuesday to end the larbour dispute and get back in the classroom.
"Students are not calling for a resolution within the framework of final-offer-by-package arbitration earlier proposed by St. FX’s administration. Rather, students would hope that the open arbitration could be permitted to find reasonable middle ground between the parties' last proposals," said the letter signed by Nick Head-Petersen, student union president.
Last week's most recent round of talks began after the university administration's released a new offer and detailed the contract proposal that would be good for four years beginning July 1, 2012.
That offer had a 1.5 per cent raise in each of the first two years, a two per cent raise in the third year and a 2.25 per cent raise in the final year.
The offer also included adding some retirement incentives, health care and dental benefits for part-time staff, and minimum contract lengths for some instructors.
There are no details on the amendments the union is seeking.
A previous proposal — which was rejected by the membership — had a 1.5 per cent raise for each of the first two years, followed by 1.75 per cent in the third year and two per cent in the fourth year.
The union had been arguing for an increase of 10 or 11 per cent over four years.
The 400 members of the St. FX Association of University Teachers — which include faculty, librarians, lab instructors and extension staff — have been on strike since Jan. 28. They've been without a contract for eight months.