Faculty at Cape Breton University go on strike to back demands for higher wages

Click to play video: 'More people dip into their savings to make ends meet'
More people dip into their savings to make ends meet
Global News at 6 New Brunswick from Jan. 27, 2023 – Jan 26, 2023

Some faculty members at Cape Breton University have walked off the job.

Their strike started Friday, with the faculty’s union saying the administration has disrespected it at every turn, leading to a large number of labour grievances.

The union issued a statement saying it is seeking pay raises to deal with the soaring cost of living, but it is also calling for changes to how the university is dealing with a rapidly growing population of international students.

The Cape Breton University Faculty Association represents librarians, lab instructors, writing centre advisers, archivists, research chairs and nursing practice educators.

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Rural vs Urban: Where are food prices higher?

The administration issued a statement assuring students that no Canadian university has ever lost a term to strike, though it confirmed that most classes have been cancelled.

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The university’s latest wage proposal offers an an increase of eight per cent over the next three years, in addition to existing annual step increases. The administration says the union is seeking a 14 per cent raise over the next two years.

Meanwhile, the union says the university is dealing with more grievances than any other university in Canada

Faculty members voted 92 per cent in favour of a strike in September.

In October, the Association of Atlantic Universities issued a report saying that as of this fall, nearly 4,000 international students were enrolled at Cape Breton University out of about 5,900 total students.

That was up from about 2,400 international students in 2021, when the school had about 4,200 students.

In 2017, the university had fewer than 900 international students among a student body of about 2,600.

Last month, the university’s administration said it was limiting enrolment to a popular business program following concerns the school is not equipped to handle the recent influx of international students.

The university has limited admissions to its two-year post-baccalaureate diploma program starting May 2023.

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Based in Sydney, N.S., the university in the fall semester held classes for that program at the downtown Cineplex cinemas — about nine kilometres from campus — because of a lack of teaching space.
All but two of the 2,681 people enrolled in the post-baccalaureate program are international students, and 85 per cent of those foreign students are from India.

The recent spike in international enrolment follows targeted recruitment in India that began in 2018.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 28, 2023.

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