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U of M, professors heading to mediation

Academic freedom, research top issues

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Conciliation talks between the University of Manitoba and its professors have broken down, the faculty association said in a release Friday night.

The minister of labour has appointed a mediator, Michael Werier, the University of Manitoba Faculty Association said.

The faculty association has set Tuesday as a strike date, though it has not yet made an official announcement.

UMFA members voted 68 per cent last week in favour of going on strike.

'I want to be clear that we have not put forward anything in this bargaining process that would erode the academic freedom enjoyed by our faculty'

-- U of M president David Barnard

The U of M has set up a website to keep students informed at www.umanitoba.ca/strikeinfo.

Conciliation began Wednesday and was scheduled for the weekend.

"Conciliation talks between UMFA and the administration have reached an impasse," the release from UMFA said.

"Outstanding issues include academic freedom, collegial governance, and the ability of faculty to perform their research without interference from university bureaucrats.

"The administration continues to refuse to add language to the collective agreement that would protect the rights of faculty members to speak about the administration and to exercise their civil rights as individuals, including their right to contribute to social change through free expression of opinion on matters of public interest, without fear of reprisal."

A statement from U of M president David Barnard, released Thursday, said: "I want to be clear that we have not put forward anything in this bargaining process that would erode the academic freedom enjoyed by our faculty. We have not proposed a performance-management system for UMFA members. Nor have we introduced any restrictions on research for UMFA members."

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.

The University of Manitoba told students Wednesday that libraries and student services will likely remain open during a professors' strike and their academic records and scholarships will not be affected.

But vice-provost for students Susan Gottheil told students, "We don't know yet what effect a strike will have on class schedules, mid-term exams or final papers."

Especially worried are foreign students paying triple the tuition rate, some paying more than $15,000 a year including their room and board.

Students are anxious to know what's going on and what could happen next week, U of M Students Union president Al Turnbull said Wednesday.

Turnbull said UMSU doesn't know if any classes will continue during a strike or if any professors will cross picket lines.

"It'll be interesting to see," Turnbull said. "There's still 32 per cent who disagreed" with going on strike.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 19, 2013 A8

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