Nova Scotia

Students relieved after Dalhousie tentative deal

Dalhousie University students expressed relief on Monday that a strike by nearly 900 faculty members was averted thanks to a tentative agreement reached on the weekend.

Ratification vote not yet scheduled

Dalhousie University students expressed relief on Monday that a strike by nearly 900 faculty members was averted thanks to a tentative agreement reached on the weekend.

"There was a lot on the line for next year, so it's good we got to have school," said Caroline Elias, a fourth year student who has been accepted into a master's program at the University of Edinburgh.

"If graduation was pushed too far back, I was worried that it might not have worked out properly for me."

The tentative deal between Dalhousie's faculty and administration came just days after the provincial government announced it would change pension rules for universities in the province.

One of the main sticking points in negotiations was where the university was going to find $50 million a year to pay in pensions if the university ever shut down or went bankrupt.

The province decided that wasn't likely and late last week, announced it would changed the rules around pension solvency. That means some universities will be exempted from the strict tests for solvency that apply to businesses.

"Therefore, we could deal with this pension plan organization question — which had been central to the negotiations — at a later date," said Tom Traves, president of Dalhousie University.

"The issue disappeared from the bargaining table."

Executive members of the Dalhousie Faculty Association are scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon to decide whether to recommend the tentative agreement to its members. The members will likely have a ratification vote later this week on whether to accept the three-year agreement.

"We just have to be optimistic this tentative agreement will become an official one," said Elias.

But Elias and thousands of other Dalhousie University students have another contract dispute to worry about — the administrative staff at the university could go on strike in two weeks.

About 850 people who work in the library and registrar's office aren't satisfied with the university administration's latest offer of an annual one per cent wage increase.

"They could shut the university down because of registration for new students coming in, end-of-year finances, graduation," said," Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union.

"All this stuff happens at this time of year."