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U of M profs vote in favour of strike

No date set; talks ongoing

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There are no plans -- yet -- for professors to go on strike at the University of Manitoba.

Having received a 68 per cent vote in favour of a strike over three nights of voting, the U of M Faculty Association said Thursday it will likely announce today the earliest date when professors could strike.

Conciliation requested by the university begins Wednesday, but UMFA president Prof. Sharon Alward said it is not unusual for negotiations and conciliation to continue during what she preferred to call a job action.

It's business at usual at the U of M, where the administration won't say if it's made contingency plans if a strike occurs.

'UMFA continues to hope for a negotiated settlement, but to achieve that, the employer must now begin to bargain seriously on the outstanding issues'

-- UMFA president Prof. Sharon Alward

"At this point, the university's activities continue as scheduled. The university has not been made aware of any strike date, and there are plans to meet with a conciliator next week," John Danakas, director of marketing and communications, said Thursday.

The UMFA said 820 professors out of 1,230 voted, a two-thirds turnout over three days.

Alward said "68 per cent of 820 members, we believe, is a very strong mandate, a very good turnout."

"The association is very pleased with the excellent voter turnout and with the membership's strong show of support for UMFA's positions and for the bargaining team," Alward said. "UMFA continues to hope for a negotiated settlement, but to achieve that, the employer must now begin to bargain seriously on the outstanding issues."

The U of M told students in an email no Canadian university has ever cancelled a term because of a strike, including the 47-day strike at Brandon University in 2011, the longest in Manitoba history.

The U of M told students: "In the event of a strike, we will do everything we can to minimize the impact of a strike on your academic success," but could not elaborate, given ongoing bargaining and uncertainty about what will happen.

The U of M earlier made public that it has offered 2.9 per cent in the first year and two per cent a year the following three years, in a four-year deal. Compounded, the offer is 9.2 per cent over four years, though Danakas said some professors would receive more under the way the university's offer is structured.

The UMFA would take the 2.9 per cent in the first year and would accept another 2.9 per cent in the second year, but wants only a two-year deal.

There is a strong disagreement between the two sides over whether the university's position threatens academic freedom and tenure.

Alward did acknowledge the union fears the university may be looking to place quotas on professors for research funding and publications written and to limit what journal publications can be used in a tenure application, but would not go into specifics.

Students' mid-term exams are coming up later this month, and fall convocation is next week. When support staff were on strike a few years ago, the university moved convocation off campus to the Church of the Rock.

Alward said the UMFA would picket from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the university entrances.

The UMFA went out on strike in 1995 and 2001 and has come within hours of hitting the bricks before reaching deals in recent years.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 11, 2013 A4

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