On Campus

N.S. college union calls for arbitration as strike date set

Walkout would suspend class for 25,000 students at 13 campuses across the province

The union representing community college workers in Nova Scotia is calling for binding arbitration to avert a strike by faculty and staff.

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union suggested the move Thursday as it set a date of Oct. 20 for a possible strike to back contract demands. “Binding arbitration will allow the parties to reach a negotiated settlement without resorting to a strike,” said union president Alexis Allen.

A walkout would result in the suspension of classes for about 25,000 students at 13 campuses across the province.

In a news release Friday, college spokeswoman Gina Brown left the door open to arbitration. She said the college “will explore this possibility as an option in our ongoing efforts to achieve a resolution, preferably without a strike.”

In the event of a strike, Brown said classes would be suspended but all campuses would remain open, supported by more than 1,000 employees who would continue to work. Students would have access to libraries, bookstores, computer labs, cafeterias, classrooms and other facilities.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Marilyn More said Thursday her department would honour the collective bargaining process and doesn’t plan to intercede.

“The collective bargaining process guarantees certain steps and a strike is one of them,” she said. “We don’t plan to interfere.”

The 900 faculty and staff represented by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union have been in a stalemate in negotiations for a new contract for months.

The union is demanding the same 2.9 per cent salary increase given to public school teachers last year, along with similar improvements to medical benefits. The province is offering one per cent.

Deputy premier Frank Corbett said Thursday it’s up to the two sides to hammer out a deal with what’s already on the table. “They know the size of the pile of money so if they want to be more creative around that in negotiations we certainly can work around that,” he said.

Corbett, who is also minister for the Public Service Commission, said to his knowledge the government doesn’t plan to come up with more money to avoid a strike.

Community college workers, who voted more than 90 per cent in favour of strike action last month, have been without a contract since August 2008.

– The Canadian Press

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