U of M faculty to hold strike vote
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This article was published 07/10/2021 (600 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As a strike vote looms, faculty at the University of Manitoba say their employer’s low wages — in comparison to other research schools in Canada — continue to hamper recruitment and retention.
The U of M Faculty Association announced late Wednesday its members had authorized the union to conduct a strike vote later this month.
The association claims negotiations are at an impasse because of interference by the provincial government; in a release, it cited U of M president Michael Benarroch confirming the wage offer on the table has been mandated by the province.
Sources told the Free Press the latest offer, which would account for 2021-22, includes annual percentage increases of: 0.75; 0.75; and 1.0.
A union release suggested the offer closely resembles the terms set out in the Pallister government’s public-sector wage-freeze legislation, which was deemed unconstitutional in 2020 — a ruling the Progressive Conservatives are in the process of appealing.
“It feels like a slap in the face,” said Sachin Katyal, a cancer researcher at the U of M, who sits on the union executive. “The university needs to grow a backbone and not keep on deferring to the provincial government. The provincial government is not the full funder, students are a funder.”
Katyal noted the salary grid at the U of M is among the lowest of all U15 institutions and that results in challenges with recruitment and retention, which affect the quality of education because course offerings are in flux.
Faculty members are asking their employer to bridge the gap to acknowledge the hard work educators have done throughout the pandemic to boost morale, and improve both recruitment and retention rates, he added.
The floor salary for a professor at the University of Saskatchewan in 2020-21 was $135,145. At U of M, it was $105,269 last year.
Sean Buchanan, an assistant professor of business administration, said non-competitive wages make being on hiring committees frustrating because candidates are constantly turning down offers for better ones elsewhere. Annual hikes of 0.75 per cent won’t fix the problem, Buchanan said.
In a generic statement on the matter, university communications officer Sean Moore did not address an inquiry about U of M receiving a new bargaining mandate. Instead, Moore said both parties continue to meet to conclude an agreement “that supports stability in operations; an outstanding educational experience for our students; fairness to our faculty members; and sustainability for our institution.”
A spokesperson for the minister of advanced education noted via email that governments of different political stripes have long set broad public-sector bargaining mandates.
“Mischaracterizing this traditional role, or inaccurately attributing specific bargaining proposals to government, is not helpful. No one wants a strike, especially as all Manitobans continue to deal with the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic,” said the spokesperson.
The faculty association strike vote is scheduled for Oct. 16 to 18.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.