Part-time instructors at Wilfrid Laurier University could walk off the job by the end of November after 91 per cent of them voted in favour of a strike mandate earlier this week.

The contract between Laurier and its contract academic staff (CAS) expired in August.

University officials and the Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association, the union representing CAS, have met 23 times since then, including twice with a conciliator, and been unable to reach terms.

“CAS teach over 50 per cent of the students at Laurier, and yet they only cost the administration $9 million out of a budget of well over $230 million,” union leader Bill Salatka tells CTV News.

“We don’t understand why the administration doesn’t want to compensate them fairly.”

CAS are paid slightly more than $7,000 for each 12-week course they teach. Some teach only one course per year, while others can teach six or seven.

Salatka estimates that full-time instructors earn around $90,000 per year, although with administrative and research duties that CAS don’t have.

Other bargaining issues include benefits – CAS currently don’t receive any – and job security.

University spokesperson Kevin Crowley says the school pays CAS wages in the “middle of the pack” compared to other universities in Ontario.

“They’re high-quality instructors and we value them,” he says.

Under the school’s bargaining agreement with full-time faculty, CAS can teach up to 35 per cent of all classes offered at the school’s Waterloo and Brantford campuses.

Both sides say they’re hopeful a new deal can be reached without a strike.

Laurier students approached Friday by CTV News were unaware of the possibility of strike action, but were concerned about how it could affect their education.

“I’m in my fourth year, so if the teachers were to go on strike, it could pose a problem for graduating,” says health student Joanne Hutton.

Another meeting between the two sides, with a mediator present, is scheduled for Nov. 26 – one week before fall term exams begin.

“Most of the time here at Laurier, everything gets settled in mediation,” says Salatka.

Any legal strike or walkout could not occur until Nov. 28.

In 2008, CAS walked off the job for about two weeks.