U of M professors hit picket line

University remains open, pledges academic year won't be written off


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/10/2016 (2167 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.


At one stroke past midnight, the University of Manitoba Faculty Association went on strike.

Picket lines were to go up at campus entrances in Fort Garry and outside faculty of health sciences buildings at 7 a.m. today, UMFA president Prof. Mark Hudson said Monday.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS The U of M Faculty Association will set up picket lines at 7 a.m. on Nov. 1 if there is no agreement on a new deal.

The Thompson campus will not be picketed.

The two sides will start conciliation Wednesday, but that was not expected to stop the strike from going ahead.

Hudson blamed the university for failing to budge on meaningful issues during four days of mediation, which ended in an impasse Sunday evening, but vice-president external John Kearsey similarly blamed the union for rejecting a counter offer tabled by the university Monday. Kearsey said the university made improvements to its offer on workload and performance assessment.

Talks hit a major snag when the university told the union on Thursday the provincial government had ordered it to extend the current contract for one year at zero per cent, Hudson said. The university then withdrew its salary offer, he said, but did not replace it with any new offer, including zero.

Kearsey said the university first learned about the zero edict Oct. 6, when provincial bureaucrats told the U of M to extend the collective agreement one year at zero. There has been no political contact about the directive, Kearsey said.

“It was clear to us there was an expectation of a one-year pause,” Kearsey said. “They have a mandate to clean up the finances of the province. We want to be part of that — we’re big players in the city.”

Kearsey said provincial governments across Canada let universities know the financial mandates within which they’re working when they bargain with employees.

“This is not unusual that the province has discussions about the mandate with us,” he said. 

The university was disappointed the mandate came so late during bargaining, he said, but Kearsey emphasized the Pallister government has “definitely” not intervened in bargaining.

UMFA did not learn about the zero edict until mediation started Thursday.

“They said the province has mandated this, is it worthwhile going ahead?” said Hudson. “We said, let’s see where we can go with governance.”

However, the university did not offer any improvements in governance or workload over four days of talks, Hudson said.

“Administration has still failed to make a single meaningful, acceptable offer on UMFA’s main priorities of job security for librarians and instructors, workload protection, protection from performance indicators and closing the salary gap. This intransigence on the part of management is what caused mediation to fail,” Hudson said.

The university had offered a seven per cent increase over four years; for one-third of the members still eligible for incremental raises, the package would total 17.5 per cent over four years.

UMFA wants a 6.9 per cent overall increase for one year.

In the deal that expired March 31, assistant professors were paid from $71,777 to $107,666, associate professors from $84,251 to $126,376, and professors from $103,451 to $155,777.

Instructors and librarians are part of the bargaining unit.

The university will continue classes on a case-by-case basis, largely dependent on which professors cross the picket line. The U of M said updates on which classes are being held will be posted on umanitoba.ca/strikeinfo.

“That’s being updated each and every single time there’s information,” Kearsey said. All that matters to the university is that the almost 30,000 students do not have their education affected, he added.

The university remains open, and says it will not write off the academic year under any circumstance.

Assistant coaches will coach Bisons teams unless head coaches, who are part of UMFA, cross the picket line.

Full details of how campus activities will be handled are available here.



Updated on Monday, October 31, 2016 3:42 PM CDT: Updates

Updated on Monday, October 31, 2016 11:41 PM CDT: changed headline, timeline

Updated on Tuesday, November 1, 2016 6:41 AM CDT: Updates

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