Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Facing wage freeze, colleges' staff mull strike vote

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MORE than 1,600 staff at Red River and Assiniboine community colleges facing a wage freeze could take a strike vote soon.

They held an information picket outside the Brandon campus of ACC Thursday and will picket the downtown Red River campus in early June.

There has not been a strike vote held yet, but, "That's something that could happen soon," said Manitoba Government and General Employees Union communications staffer Jeremy Peterson.

Instructors and support staff at the two colleges have been without a contract since last summer.

"We've had 35 bargaining sessions," said Peterson. "The mandates from the government have changed substantially."

When talks started, he said, the colleges were offering similar packages to the Manitoba Hydro deal, a two-year contract for raises of 2.9 and 2.5 per cent.

But that was before the Selinger government announced it would seek a wage freeze with its government employees.

The college staff face a wage freeze, Peterson said: "Basically, that is the line now."

MGEU president Peter Olfert said in a news release the union will file an allegation of unfair labour practice with the Manitoba Labour Board.

Olfert said the government is refusing to bargain with its workers at the same time it is investing tens of millions of dollars into capital projects at colleges and universities.

Red River College said that the two sides have a bargaining session today.

"Negotiations have not broken down, and we're in conciliation," Red River director of college relations Twylla Krueger said. "We're continuing to bargain in good faith."

Meanwhile, Assiniboine Community College released a statement saying the school is pleased with negotiations.

"Assiniboine Community College maintains it has been bargaining in good faith, and has been transparent and forthright with the MGEU throughout the process. The parties have to reach agreement on a number of non-monetary improvements, which are mutually beneficial."

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 14, 2010 A12

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