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Staff strike at University of New Brunswick after talks fail to produce deal

Academic staff at the University of New Brunswick went on strike Monday after talks failed to produce a deal with the school over the weekend.

Picket lines were set up at campuses in Fredericton, Saint John, Bathurst and Moncton.

University president Eddy Campbell said staff had withdrawn their services and that all classes affecting about 10,000 students will be suspended for the duration of the strike with the exception of some online courses and those in Miramichi.

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"Eventually this dispute will be settled, a new contract will be signed and we will all return to the work we love," Campbell said in a statement.

Miriam Jones, president of the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers, said a last-ditch attempt to resolve a dispute over salaries and workload failed Sunday after the group modified its proposal.

Jones said the university didn't budge on compensation and reversed some commitments it previously made.

"They don't seem interested in negotiating," she said. "It's almost like they're welcoming this situation."

Peter McDougall, the university's associate vice-president of human resources, challenged that claim.

"I can certainly say that we don't welcome the situation at all," he said in an interview from Fredericton. "We're very concerned about the impact that this labour disruption has on our students and the teaching and research activities of the university."

McDougall said the average faculty member is now being paid an average of $100,000 annually.

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He said the union has asked for a 20 per cent wage increase over four years and the university is offering nine per cent.

"The faculty association has remained very far from what we've offered," he said. "We don't believe that's fair and reasonable. ... The adjustments that we're offering are fair and reasonable."

There were no plans for further contract talks, McDougall said.

Jones said the union has been told their members would be locked out as of Tuesday.

She said members are looking to be treated the same as their peers at other universities, adding that staff are up to 48 per cent behind salaries at other schools.

The union represents more than 1,000 full-time and contract academic staff, librarians and researchers. Their contract expired June 30.

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