Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Strike threat hangs over students at U of M

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THIS is nail-biting time for University of Manitoba students.

Six days since their professors finished voting 68 per cent in favour of a strike, students still don't know if -- or when -- there'll be a faculty strike.

University of Manitoba Faculty Association president Prof. Sharon Alward said Monday the union would not be saying anything over the long weekend.

"There may be something (today)," said Alward.

Students' mid-terms are looming and fall convocation starts Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the U of M won't reveal its contingency plans for a possible professors' strike until and unless it's necessary.

"Major events are always planned with possible contingencies in mind, and those would be finalized and shared as necessary, in order not to contribute to more confusion," said U of M marketing and communications director John Danakas. The university will keep students informed of any new developments.

Events will proceed normally this week, including classes and fall convocation, Danakas said.

Conciliation is scheduled for Wednesday, with a second conciliation session planned for Sunday.

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 suddenly part of a much larger body. 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.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 15, 2013 B1

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