May 23, 2018

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U of M apologizes to faculty association, will pay labour board penalty

David Barnard, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manitoba (The Canadian Press files)</p>

David Barnard, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manitoba (The Canadian Press files)

The University of Manitoba has apologized to its faculty association and agreed to pay the maximum $2.4-million penalty for bargaining in bad faith by obeying Premier Brian Pallister's orders not to disclose the province had imposed a wage freeze.

The university says it should have disclosed the province's order much sooner to the union, and realizes its actions were wrong.

"We apologize for that," university president David Barnard said in an interview Friday afternoon. "We're looking forward to moving ahead with our faculty."

The U of M will be passing a tight budget May 22, Barnard said, but it had set aside money in anticipation of having to pay the penalty.

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The University of Manitoba has apologized to its faculty association and agreed to pay the maximum $2.4-million penalty for bargaining in bad faith by obeying Premier Brian Pallister's orders not to disclose the province had imposed a wage freeze.

The university says it should have disclosed the province's order much sooner to the union, and realizes its actions were wrong.

"We apologize for that," university president David Barnard said in an interview Friday afternoon. "We're looking forward to moving ahead with our faculty."

The U of M will be passing a tight budget May 22, Barnard said, but it had set aside money in anticipation of having to pay the penalty.

Barnard said the university had thought it could convince the government not to impose a freeze, but, "We now see that was inappropriate."

The U of M appealed because, "We wanted to be convinced of what the final decision was," Barnard said. "We had our ideas tested, and it's clear the judgment that came back."

"It's a good apology," UMFA president Prof. Janet Morrill said Friday afternoon.

The apology will help to start rebuilding the relationship between the university and UMFA's professors, librarians, and instructors, she said.

Nevertheless, Morrill said, "The amount of fines is still less than the amount they saved during the strike. It's still money that's sat in their bank account they didn't have to pay."

The university and union were bargaining in early fall of 2016, when the Manitoba government told the U of M it was imposing a one-year wage freeze, and ordered the university not to share that information with UMFA.

The province issued the order months before the Tories first announced Bill 28 and its wage controls on 120,000 public-sector workers.

It was not until the two sides were in conciliation in late November the university told the union bargaining team about Pallister's order. Several days later, UMFA went on strike for three weeks for improved working conditions.

The Manitoba Labour Board ruled the university bargained in bad faith by keeping the government's order a secret, and told the U of M to apologize and to pay each UMFA member up to $2,000.

The board also ruled the union knew about the wage freeze before it went on strike, and ruled the unfair labour practice did not cause the strike. The labour board recently upheld its ruling after both parties appealed sections of the decision.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Nick Martin.

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