January 19, 2020

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U of M bank account has $135M: union

Management says money not available for salaries

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/10/2016 (1191 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

University of Manitoba professors claim the university has an enormous amount of cash it’s not spending on salaries and benefits — $135.5 million on the day their contract expired last March.

Bargaining team member Prof. Cameron Morrill said among Canadian universities "the University of Manitoba tends to be on the flusher side. They could pay our whole year’s salaries out of what they have in the bank," said Morrill, who teaches accounting and finance.

The university countered by saying the money is being spent annually across campus and is fully disclosed in U of M financial reports.

The U of M Faculty Association voted 85.9 per cent this week to give its bargaining team a strike mandate. About two-thirds of the members voted.

In recent bargaining that produced a strike vote, there were 68, 76, and 68 per cent voting in favour, union president Prof. Mark Hudson said Friday.

The union is asking for a one-year deal giving its members a 6.9 per cent overall raise to begin catching up to similar universities.

The university has offered seven per cent over four years in base salary and 17.5 per cent over four years to about one-third of the bargaining unit eligible for incremental increases.

Morrill said the university generated $629.5 million in operating revenue last year through provincial operating grants and tuition primarily, and it spent $533.9 million. The remainder of what the union contends is cash surplus comes from liquid cash from investments.

In the last three years, the U of M has cut faculty and department budgets by more than 10 per cent, Morrill said.

Professors’ salaries as a percentage of the university’s operating revenue fell to 21 per cent in 2015 from 25 per cent in 2007, Morrill said.

Where does the union allege that money is going?

"The most significant one is the transfer to capital. They’re buying stuff: land, buildings, equipment," said Morrill. "A lot of it is faculties using operating money for capital."

The union contends per-student spending has declined in recent years, and classes are getting larger.

"The faculty are highly valued members of the university community," and that’s why the professors have received a competitive salary offer, said U of M communications manager John Danakas. "Prudent financial management has put (U of M) in position to make a competitive salary offer."

Danakas said the university spends the money cited by the union, and that spending is accounted for in U of M’s annual financial report.

For a major portion, it’s for operating costs, including salaries, at the start of a fiscal year, before provincial grants and tuition get paid, he said.

Some is spent over the long term on projects, some in the current year, much of that money going to projects faculties have identified as priorities. Tens of millions of dollars go to faculties and departments for requested travel, research startup costs, laboratory space, equipment and library acquisitions.

Meanwhile, Danakas said, bargaining continues, and the university will post information online if and when labour disruptions occur.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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