Nova Scotia

Dalhousie and faculty disagree on pension issue

There are continuing efforts to avoid a faculty strike at the province's largest university.

Dalhousie faculty in a legal position to strike Saturday

There are continuing efforts to avoid a faculty strike at the province's largest university.

Dalhousie University and representatives from its faculty association met in Dartmouth on Wednesday for conciliation talks — the key issue of pensions remains unresolved, as are salary and benefits.

Anthony Stewart, president of the DFA, says faculty have agreed to the university's demands. (CBC)

After two additional days of talks last week, the university announced it was hoping to make more progress on the discussions about a jointly-sponsored pension plan.

The university insists the faculty agree to a jointly-sponsored pension plan that would make faculty share responsibility for funding shortfalls.

"Our agreement to increase our contribution rates and to change the pension plan to a jointly-sponsored plan — they have everything they wanted," said Anthony Stewart, president of the Dalhousie Faculty Association.

Dalhousie said there is no deal on pensions yet.

"They wanted to make sure that any overage would be covered by the university, we've agreed to that. They wanted to preserve their veto in the plan, we've agreed to that. They wanted to make sure any past debt was covered by the university, we've agreed to that," said Charles Crosby, spokesman for Dalhousie University.

"We need to come to an agreement about the principles around JSPP. At least, to date we haven't been there."

Crosby didn't clarify what principles remain unclear.

Dalhousie said the faculty ignored its attempts to discuss restoring other benefits.

Non-monetary proposals were pulled off the table in February in an effort to focus on pensions and salary.

Members of the Dalhousie Faculty Association, which represents approximately 850 professors, librarians and learning specialists, are in a legal strike position as of March 10.

The administration had said in the event of a strike, faculty on sick leave, parental leave or sabbatical would not get paid.

Late Wednesday, Dalhousie University backed down on a threat and said in the event of a strike, they would top up strike pay for people on medical leave.

Student frustration

Student Grant Collins says his professors don't get his empathy. (CBC)

Dalhousie students are not impressed with the strike threat.

"It definitely changed my opinion of the university and has made really frustrated with the whole situation," said student Lacey Wilson.

"There hasn't been a whole lot of communication. It's a lot of, 'What ifs?'" said Charles Vey.

"When my university professor making $100,000 a year and making money on the side, which often many of them do, and they're complaining they want my empathy? They are on their own," said Grant Collins.

Stewart said he's concerned for his students.

"We should not, as a university, be in the business of repelling the best students we have access to," he said.

Talks are set to resume Thursday.