Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

U of M pays for consultants, PR blitz as budget cuts loom: unions

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DISGRUNTLED union members will surround an administration building Wednesday to let the University of Manitoba know how unhappy they are.

Six bargaining units representing 5,200 employees will protest a litany of university policy and spending decisions.

They will hold a rally from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Despite department heads being told to budget for possible three to five per cent cuts next year, the university is spending millions of dollars to boost its image through consultants, advertising and additional staff, the unions say.

In a statement on Twitter Monday, the six bargaining units said they fear the still-unknown consequences of president David Barnard's plan to cut the current 20 faculties to about 13 by 2017.

Marketing and communications director John Danakas pointed out Monday that recommending where possible cuts could occur has been a standard part of pre-budget planning for several years.

Danakas said the university welcomes debate on issues faced by the entire university community. He pointed out the university president regularly holds town halls -- the next is March 1 -- and there has been extensive consultation on ROSE, the university's resource-optimization and service-enhancement project.

There is increased privatization and contracting out, said the unionized employees, citing the example of Australian-owned International College of Manitoba, a private company on campus that recruits international students for pre-university courses. Details of getting reimbursed for expenses are contained in an 80-page manual, the unions said.

"Collegial governance has been diminished, workload is increasing and false efficiencies have been implemented.

Academics have had the time needed for their research, teaching and service duties eroded by an increasing load of pointless administrivia," the bargaining units said.

"The staff, academics and students are frustrated and dissatisfied. The unions want the administration to know that they are making bad decisions which need to be reversed."

Danakas said the university wouldn't address complaints from the unions in the media, but pointed out a survey of employees in June 2011 found 86 per cent expressed overall job satisfaction, and 75 per cent said they went home each day feeling good about the job they'd done.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 12, 2013 A7

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