Université Sainte-Anne professors, supporters take picket line to Halifax

Click to play video: 'Université Sainte-Anne staff bring picket line to Halifax'
Université Sainte-Anne staff bring picket line to Halifax
Striking professors and librarians from Université Sainte-Anne took their protest to Halifax on Friday, calling for fair wages and a balanced workload. Graeme Benjamin has more. – Mar 11, 2022

Université Sainte-Anne unionized professors, librarians and supporters brought their picket line to Halifax on Friday, calling for better pay and a more balanced workload.

About 50 staff members and supporters gathered to make their voices heard outside the Université Sainte-Anne Campus de Halifax — nearly 300 km from where they work and live.

“The students are caught in the middle,” said Brenda Austin-Smith of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, who was alongside Université Sainte-Anne staff members picketing on Friday.

“Good, quality working conditions mean good, quality learning conditions, so all of this effects the students.”

Professors and librarians walked off the job last week, calling for a rebalanced workload. However, they say negotiations have hit a snag.

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“Everybody expects back and forth, back and forth, you say this, we say this,” said Austin-Smith, “but what we’re seeing is kind of an emerging attitude of, ‘We don’t have to talk to our employees.”

In a statement, the university, which is the province’s only French language post-secondary institution, said it is “committed to negotiating a fair and lasting agreement with the members of [the union] and wishes to reach an agreement that will be in the best interests of the university as well as its student population.”

Friday’s rally also saw support from Dalhousie University’s Faculty Association, who says several other Nova Scotia universities are facing similar concerns.

“It’s very different context. Dalhousie is a much larger institution with a variety of programs and specialty schools,” said David Westwood, president-elect of the Dalhousie Faculty Association. “Sainte-Anne is a smaller university but no less important.

“Saint-Anne is an important part of the community and students deserve to have a good, quality education.”

Click to play video: 'N.S. university changes mind about in-person classes after winter break'
N.S. university changes mind about in-person classes after winter break

Westwood says the two sides need to get back to the bargaining table in order to resolve the job action. He adds that the Board of Governors need to change their priorities.

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“There’s too much spending on buildings and upper administrators at the expense of faculty members that are actually doing the mission of the university,” he said.

The strike at Université Sainte-Anne started just after the one at Acadia University ended. In that case, the faculty association committed to binding arbitration after their most recent attempt to achieve a tentative agreement was unsuccessful.

Supporters hope this job action doesn’t end the same way.

“The message we’re sending to students, their parents and the community is your university belongs to the community,” said Austin-Smith, “so we’re going to fight for it on your behalf.”


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