The University of Manitoba and its professors have until next Tuesday to get a deal — or students start to suffer.
The U of M Faculty Association has set Tuesday as a strike date, after receiving 68 per cent approval for a strike in three days of voting last week.
UMFA set a strike date before the first conciliation talks begin today. Further conciliation talks follow Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
UMFA did not respond to numerous phone and email interview requests throughout the day Tuesday.
"It is disappointing to see a strike deadline set before conciliation has even begun. The University of Manitoba remains committed to seeking a negotiated settlement and avoiding a disruption to student learning and success," U of M marketing and communications director John Danakas said Tuesday evening.
"The university enters the conciliation process hopeful of a positive result, and is willing to work towards that goal as necessary. If focus now shifts from resolving the impasse to conducting a strike, the chances of reaching an agreement and avoiding a strike could be compromised."
U of M said it will tell students as much as it can, as soon as it can. Mid-term exams start soon.
"With a strike date now set by UMFA, the University of Manitoba will continue working towards negotiating a settlement while at the same time doing everything possible to minimize the potential impact on student learning and success. Information will be shared with students as it becomes available regarding their classes and exams and any possible disruptions and alternate plans. This week's classes continue as planned," said Danakas.
The two sides are deeply split over the union's belief the university is threatening academic freedom and tenure, allegations the U of M denies. UMFA also fears what the university's plans to reduce the number of faculties by one-third by 2017 will do to tenure and to professors suddenlyfinding themselves swallowed up in a much larger body. Announcing the merging of several faculties into some form of health sciences faculty is imminent.
The U of M has offered a four-year raise of 2.9 per cent the first year and two per cent each of the following three years, which compounds to 9.2 per cent.
UMFA has countered with a two-year proposal of 2.9 per cent each year, which compounds to 5.9 per cent.
UMFA went on strike in 1995 and 2001, and came within hours of striking on several other occasions.
Meanwhile, the administration and professors at the University of Winnipeg have just started contract talks while waiting to see what happens at the U of M.