Innocent suffer in any dispute

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The primary reason for the existence of universities is to serve students on the path toward higher learning. A labour disruption involves two sides – the university and faculty – and leaves those students out in the cold.

That’s where those enrolled at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish found themselves Monday morning. About 400 faculty and support staff walked off the job, with salary a major factor.

Typically, the contract expired some time ago – June in this case – and negotiations follow the drawn-out pattern of two sides not finding enough agreeable territory, leading to a showdown as momentous as a strike.

The university’s teachers association says the offered increase doesn’t even match the cost of living. Members want salaries more in line with what their colleagues make elsewhere in Canada.

It’s interesting that salaries in general tend to be lower in the Maritimes than across the country. The argument by employers is that living costs are lower. By that they often mean the price of houses. But just check real estate values in Antigonish. They are significantly higher than in other small towns in northern Nova Scotia.

Strikes at universities across the country present themselves on a regular basis. A student investing the time and money in a four-year program is often taking the risk of losing a year because a contract expires. Profs give students materials to continue during the disruption, which is great, but won’t do the trick in a prolonged strike.

As for funding, cuts to post-secondary education – to services in general – are unavoidable in a province that simply does not generate enough revenue to maintain the former bloated status quo. More money would be nice, but the public purse cannot afford it.

We hope this dispute is resolved quickly. But in the meantime a less archaic model is needed to find middle ground outside of two sides pushing to the point of break-off, and yanking the rug out from under the clientele.

Organizations: St. Francis Xavier University

Geographic location: Antigonish, Northern Nova Scotia.Strikes

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