StFX Association of University Teachers take to the picket lines in legal strike action

Good luck and support to our colleagues at St. Francis Xavier who are on strike as of this morning.

Antigonish, January 28, 2013

The StFX Association of University Teachers (AUT) began legal strike action today after eight months of talks with the University Administration yielded no settlement.

“High quality education for students at StFX is our priority,” said Peter McInnis, president of the StFX AUT. “Although we regret the impact of the labour disruption on students, by exercising our democratic right to strike, the Association hopes to avoid the further erosion of the quality of education at StFX in the long-term, and to ensure a fair and equitable settlement for our diverse membership.”

The Association represents over 400 members in eight different employee groups engaged in teaching and research at StFX. Over one-third are vulnerable due to precarious, limited-term contracts with limited or no benefits. Dispelling the argument that its members all make high salaries, the AUT reports that members who fall within this vulnerable group make on average $25,000 per year, receive no health benefits, and are only employed on eight month contracts. “We cannot accept the broad disparities the Administration is trying to impose on us that would compromise the academic mission of this institution by undermining job security for academic staff,” said McInnis.

The AUT’s proposal hoped to rectify this disparity by asking for reasonable salary increases, on par with other regional and national settlements for academic staff, as well as modest improvements to health benefits, pensions, and the provision of professional development funds, a standard benefit for academic staff across the country. The Association also asked for modest contract length extensions for employee groups on less than full year contracts. However, the administration’s offer to date is below recent Atlantic university settlements and well below the cost-of-living.

The Administration has also ignored creative solutions from the union which would cover the cost of the union’s demands.

The AUT will remain on strike until the Administration accepts its invitation to return to the negotiating table. “The Association remains committed to achieving a fair and equitable settlement at the bargaining table,” McInnis said.
Details of the AUT position and bargaining updates are available at http://www.stfxaut.ca.

Faculty at St. Francis Xavier in Nova Scotia poised to strike on Monday

CAUT bulletin published the following regarding the situation at St. Francis Xavier:

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The threat of a strike hangs over St. Francis Xavier University.

Last-ditch efforts at conciliation talks will take place Jan. 23 and 24 between the St. Francis Xavier Association of University Teachers (StFXAUT) and university admin­istrators before possible strike action starting Jan. 28.

But after already undergoing several sessions of failed talks under the guidance of a provincial conciliator, there’s little hope of agreement, according to StFXAUT pre­sident Peter McInnis.

“They’re out to bust the union,” he said. “The university administration won’t table a complete package for discussion, as we have done. They won’t respond at all on certain issues, they aren’t engaging in good faith bargaining.”

The conciliator tabled a “no board” report after a second failed round of talks in early January, triggering a 14-day countdown to possible union-initiated job action. StFXAUT members have been without a collective agreement for months and in October voted 80% in favour of taking strike action.

McInnis says job security is the central issue, and notes that StFXAUT represents more than 400 members divided into eight groups engaged in diverse employment with the university, such as full and part-time contract aca­demic staff, librarians, clinical nursing staff, archivists and lab instructors.

While about 230 members are full-time faculty, some 135 are contract academic staff or others, “earning perhaps $20–$30,000 with no benefits, making the negotiations complex,” he said. “But we are all on the same page in terms of delivering academic excellence.”

The administration has offered a four-year deal with lower compensation than other Nova Scotia institutions or the neighbouring University of Prince Edward Island, and less-generous health benefits and pension plan for full-time faculty, McInnis says. As well, administrators refuse to discuss the practise of hiring part-time teachers on “precarious, limited-term contracts” with no access to group benefits.

Contract staff typically teach under eight-month contracts with no assurance of continuation, and as of January, less assistance under new federal employment insurance rules in place for “repeat” claimants.

“Yet they are suggesting they will make significant program realignments and cuts, including watering down of language around academic freedom. So we are fighting to retain the kind of collegial self-government and student-centred activities that have been characteristic of our past history,” McInnis said.

McInnis likens the administration’s approach to a “top-down” corporate model, with a corresponding power shift to top university administrators.

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