Dalhousie support staff accept new contract: Avoid strike

Dalhousie support staff have struck a deal with administration. Among their gains are wage increases, time off and relieved uncertainty over pensions.

By Ariane Hanlon

Nearly two weeks after a faculty strike was averted, Dalhousie has avoided yet another work stoppage.

The university’s support staff voted on Wednesday to accept the deal reached by their union representatives and the Dalhousie administration.

The 850 employees, who work in everything from the registrar’s office to IT, are members of Local 77 of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU), would have gone on strike Thursday had the deal been rejected.

“We gave some, the university gave some, but it still might be close,” said union member Cindy Slaunwhite on her way out of the crowded auditorium where voting was held.

After the ballots were counted late Wednesday night, 92 per cent had voted in favour of the deal.

If union members had decided to strike, Local 77 president Darryl Warren believes that the university would have been greatly incapacitated, regardless of Dalhousie’s e-mails to students saying that classes, registration and exams would continue as normal.

“Our point of view is that 850 people work here. Things wouldn’t get done properly or on time,” he said.

“In the registrar’s office alone the ratio of members to administration is so high, I can’t imagine how the registration would have gone on as planned,” said Warren, “They say they can handle it, we say they can’t. I hope the question is never answered.”

Though the problems surrounding this have been averted, Warren believes that this is only temporary.

“The contract is good until July 2014, then there will be another evaluation done on the pension plan,” said Warren.

Warren doesn’t believe the future of the pension plan is stable.

The rest of the deal includes a 2 per cet wage increase, a raised shift premium, and additional time off for family matters. Members will also receive a $300 bonus, which as Warren says was “not an incentive, but it was thrown in”.

He says that although a deal has been reached, union members are frustrated that negotiations took so long. In fact, a committee had been formed in 2009 to prepare for new contract negotiations.

“Negotiations should not go on that long. It should have been a few months…it has been frustrating for all of us,” he said.

“What we originally tabled was a one-year deal because we understood that they were in a financial bind with lots of unknowns. A year and a half later, that’s what they tabled,” said Warren. “To say that they didn’t pay attention is an understatement.”