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Labour peace at the U of M... until the end of March, anyway

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>University of Manitoba administration and striking faculty members have reached a tentative agreement.</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

University of Manitoba administration and striking faculty members have reached a tentative agreement.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/11/2016 (1291 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

With major issues outstanding and provincial austerity looming, the University of Manitoba Faculty Association and the school will be back at the bargaining table in 2017.

And Premier Brian Pallister declared Tuesday that he will "absolutely" be giving the university direction on what wage increases, if any, he will allow, but refused to be specific.

"We have been very clear about our expectations," Pallister told reporters. The premier said everyone will have to await details on Monday's throne speech promise to control wages in the public sector.

UMFA, representing 1,245 professors, instructors and librarians, accepted a new one-year collective agreement after going on strike Nov. 1. They had been without a contract since March 31. The deal expires in just over four months.

Classes at the university's two campuses resumed Tuesday.

UMFA president Prof. Mark Hudson said Tuesday that the union accepted a one-year government-mandated wage freeze, while gaining improvements to workloads, collegial governance and assessment practices.

"We got protection against some really nasty use of performance metrics," he said.

The university has agreed to strike a joint committee examining the role of research assessment in determining tenure and promotion, and especially ways in which "women are actually systematically disadvantaged," he said.

There is great weight placed on citations — how often a professor gets cited by other academics in their research — and UMFA wants the university to examine why female research scientists receive fewer citations than their male colleagues, Hudson said.

University president David Barnard categorized the changes in the new deal as "an evolution of the collegial process...not hugely different in philosophy than we've done before. We don't think it will hamstring us."

Barnard lamented the effect on students over the past three weeks.

"We need to find a better way as a community... this has been a disruptive way to deal with it," he said.

Rather than stake out far-apart specifics and then become entrenched, he said the university and union could talk about what they need and what they can give in return, which he called "interest-based bargaining."

Barnard said senior administration are also taking a salary freeze and management increases are based on professors' raises.

The province has not told the university about imposing any possible wage controls in the next collective agreement, he said.

Hudson said that the university had moved Friday on improvements to assessing tenure and promotion, and finally agreed to changes in workload protection Sunday afternoon.

"It was the strike that earned us that language," he said. "In the end, there was one big issue we were unable to get, job protection for librarians and instructors."

He said the university must prove a significant financial crisis — which requires opening its books to the union — before laying off professors for financial reasons, but librarians and instructors don't have that same protection. The university agreed to provide a letter saying it would not lay off librarians and instructors before Jan. 1, 2019.

"Those folks are absolutely crucial to the university," he said.

Barnard said the U of M cannot agree to give up the right to lay off librarians and instructors.

"We need to have some flexibility in budgeting — the major component of cost is people," he said, adding that knowing base salary won't go up this year helps, but "It didn't remove all the other uncertainties."

While wages are frozen, Hudson said that professors eligible for incremental increases will get them. And he said UMFA expects raises in the next deal.

The university notified students Monday morning that the winter term will start Jan. 18, reading week will not be cancelled and final exams will be April 22-29.

He said he does not believe that the strike would affect current or future enrolment, and didn't want to discuss the possibility some students may go elsewhere to study, given the new contract's short lifespan.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Tuesday, November 22, 2016 at 2:35 PM CST: Updates

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