Universities

Faculty at Mount Saint Vincent, Saint Mary’s vote to strike

Talks continue at Saint Mary’s on Friday and MSVU next month in attempt to reach deals

Mount Saint Vincent University student Taylor Olie is doing more than studying this semester; she’s also keeping an eye on school announcements, worried she won’t get her degree.

“I pay a lot of money and while I understand striking can be important, I expect to graduate on time,” said Olie, who’s in her fifth-year of public relations.

On Tuesday, the MSVU Faculty Association announced it was ready to walk off the job, if contract demands weren’t met after the conciliation phase. Ninety-nine per cent of members voted, with 94 per cent voting in favour of a strike.

The 144 MSVUFA members include faculty, librarians and lab instructors. The faculty union said there are outstanding issues around compensation, workload and support for caregivers and victims of domestic violence. The union has been in negotiations with the university since June.

“We simply want a fair and equitable settlement to ensure parity with other Nova Scotian universities,” Robert Farmer, MSVUFA president, said in a news release. “This is something that MSVU is well able to afford.”

The faculty union and MSVU are scheduled to continue talks with the help of a conciliator on Friday. It’s the fifth time MSVUFA has filed for conciliation since 2003, all resulting in a deal and averting a strike.

The Mount Saint Vincent Students’ Union announced its support for the faculty union in a tweet:

After the scheduled meetings with the conciliator have finished, the conciliator will decide if additional meetings are needed or the union has reason to strike. If faculty union members were to strike, classes would be cancelled for the rest of the semester or until an agreement is reached.

“The Mount has said we are their top priority and, in most cases, have worked to avoid late graduations,” said Olie. “However, if this delays me I will be extremely mad as I only have one more semester.”

Brian Jessop, vice-president of administration at MSVU, said in a news release that the university is “committed to reaching a settlement” with MSVUFA.

Saint Mary’s University follows

On Wednesday, through a news release, the Saint Mary’s University Faculty Association announced it had support from its members for a strike vote. The association said the issues are around compensation, workload, and health and wellness benefits for retirees.

Isaac Cain, a fifth-year mathematics student at Saint Mary’s set to graduate this year, says the possibility of a strike adds to an already stressful year.

“I wish SMU, the administration, would deal with it as quickly as possible,” he said. “Being in my fifth year, it’s not like I could just transfer to another university because I’m too far along.”

There are about 7,000 students attending Saint Mary’s. There are 293 faculty and librarians who are represented by SMUFU. Eighty per cent of members voted yes to strike.

“Our demands are similar to the last two Collective Agreements which were settled rapidly and before the contract expiry,” said Michael Zhang, SMUFA president, in a news release.

SMU and SMUFU are scheduled to continue negotiations with a conciliator in December. The university said in a statement they are “committed to this process, reaching an agreement and moving forward” with the union.

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