Student concern mounts as union rejects latest offer from Dalhousie administration

Part-time faculty members at Dalhousie University went on strike Oct. 19. (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)
Part-time faculty members at Dalhousie University went on strike Oct. 19. (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)

The latest offer from the administration at Dalhousie University has been rejected by the union representing part-time academics, teaching assistants, markers and other staff who went on strike Oct. 19.

The strike, now in its third week, is making the first semester a stressful one for many students at the school.

"The TAs are the ones who mark our assignments, so not getting your assignments back doesn't help with the learning process, and I find it harder," Hailey Wigmore, a student from Ontario who is majoring in math and physics, said Friday.

"You don't know what you've done wrong so you don't know how you can improve."

The picketers are asking the university to hike wages to the average pay for part-time academic work across Canada. The latest offer from the university increases the overall average salary increase across the CUPE positions to 20 per cent over four years.

Paul Palmeter/CBC
Paul Palmeter/CBC

"Unfortunately, CUPE continues to maintain demands the university couldn't meet and decided to walk away from the table during yesterday's negotiations," said Chris Hattie, the university's assistant vice-president of human resources.

Hattie said the administration's offer made on Thursday is final and the university is moving ahead with contingency plans to deal with the remainder of the fall semester.

The union maintains the deal being offered isn't good enough to take back to its members for a vote.

"Ultimately, the university will have to pay fair wages," said Gabor Lukacs, the spokesperson for CUPE Local 3912. "If the membership chooses to hold out, then it means the employer is not going to get our labour until they pay fair wages."

The mood on the picket line Friday remained positive.

"It's really good energy here today and we are still getting really good support and good crowds out," said chemistry teaching assistant Kate Leslie.

No negotiations planned

No date has been set for another negotiating session.

Students are increasingly worried that the strike could go from weeks to months.

"Our schedules have been totally switched around," said Abby Columbus, a neuroscience and biochemistry student in her second year.

"We don't really know the end result of our semester and what it will look like with all of our assignments and their due dates plus all our labs have been pushed back and cancelled."