Nova Scotia

Dalhousie faculty prepare for strike vote

The faculty association at Dalhousie University is getting ready for a strike vote next week as the two sides continue to meet with a conciliator.
The faculty association at Dalhousie University is getting ready for a strike vote next week. (CBC)

The faculty association at Dalhousie University is getting ready for a strike vote next week as the two sides continue to meet with a conciliator.

The Dalhousie Faculty Association, which represents approximately 850 professors, librarians and learning specialists, and the university have been trying to negotiate a contract since April.

Anthony Stewart, the president of the Dalhousie Faculty Association, said the contract expired on July 1 and a new deal is looking less likely.

"After 10 months of bargaining, we have been told that the other side does not have a mandate to talk about money," he told CBC News on Wednesday.

"We're hoping to be able to talk."

There are a number of issues that are being negotiated, including pensions. The university wants changes to the underfunded pension plan.

"It's not that we don't agree. We haven't been able to talk to them," said Stewart.

Dalhousie University said conciliation talks were ongoing and that the two sides had made "considerable progress" towards agreeing on non-monetary issues.

After those items are dealt with, the university said it will be prepared to discuss the monetary portion of the contract, including pension plan governance.

"Right now we're in talks," said Charles Crosby, a spokesman for Dalhousie University.

"Talks are ongoing and that's what's most important. As long as we're said to be in talks then you can be said to be making progress."

In the meantime, Crosby said the university is looking at contingency plans for students in the event of a strike.

"We've been in the situation before, where we've had to make contingencies and we're certainly looking at exactly how we would respond to it."

Last strike in 2002

The last time members of the Dalhousie Faculty Association went on strike was in 2002. The semester had to be extended and exams were condensed into three days in order to make up for lost class time.

Anthony Stewart is the president of the Dalhousie Faculty Association. (CBC)

On Thursday, students said they had heard about the contingency plans and were getting worried.

"I'm from B.C. so I'm hoping I wouldn't have to stay any later than I have to and get home on time," said Hamish Bodnar.

"That's what my main concern is — make sure I get everything I need to get my credits."

Ross Rufiange, a commerce student, said co-ops and work terms could also be affected.

"You go on co-op in the summer. You need at least three months work so it could really mess that up," he said.

Stewart said the executive committee is calling all members out for a strike vote on Feb. 14, 15 and 16 to show support for the union's position and the negotiating team.

"Our team is made up of volunteers. These are all people who are university professors, librarians, counsellors, who have regular jobs. They're doing this on a volunteer basis," he said.

"The administration, the people on the team, for the most part this is their job. They're wasting our time and they're wasting our people's time and we have no idea why."

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