Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ratification vote looms at community colleges

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The 1,600 instructors and support staff at Red River and Assiniboine community colleges face a two-year wage freeze this year and next in the colleges' latest contract offer.

There is a two per cent retroactive pay increase covering the period June 20, 2009, when the previous contract expired, to June 18, 2010. The offer specifically says this is a one-time payment and is non-recurring.

On June 16, 2012, there would be a 2.9 per cent increase to all employees, and an additional one per cent increase to instructors. All employees would receive a further 2.9 per cent increase on June 30, 2012.

The contract would expire June 30, 2013.

The Manitoba Government and General Employees Union said Tuesday that the salary, benefits and pension improvements add up to an overall 10 per cent increase over four years, though MGEU did not provide any details or numbers.

But members of the rank and file who provided copies of the offer to The Winnipeg Free Press today dispute that the offer is worth 10 per cent overall.

There are improvements to health and dental benefits, but they require employees to agree to take two days off without pay. A 60 per cent discount on transit passes will take effect Jan. 11, 2011.

There is provision to protect current employees from layoffs, but there are exemptions, including an unspecified 'significant reduction' in external funding (government grants), a condition that is not defined with numbers.

The 1,600 staff at red River and Assiniboine have been in a strike position since June.

The college staffs have been without a contract since last summer and 36 bargaining sessions failed to produce a new deal before they took a strike vote in June.

When talks started, the colleges offered a wage deal similar to the Manitoba Hydro deal -- a two-year contract including annual 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 MGEU will hold information meetings for union members in Brandon July 26 and in Winnipeg July 27. Members must return their ballots to the union by July 30 at 4:30 p.m.

Red River College officials have refused to discuss any details of bargaining.

An aide to Finance Minister Rosann Wowchuk said the government wants a two-year wage freeze as of April 1, 2010, for those employees with which it bargains directly.

However, Wowchuk has not directed the colleges to achieve a freeze, said the aide.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 14, 2010 A3

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