Faculty ratifies four-year agreement under “duress”

The University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) membership, which consists of approximately 1,200 professors, instructors, and librarians, ratified a long term deal on Sept. 8.

The agreement was reached after an expedited package was sent to the U of M administration before the 2017-18 academic year began. Both teams participated in bargaining sessions over the summer.

UMFA brought four proposals of significant importance to its membership to the bargaining table that were “outstanding from the last round of bargaining,” said Janet Morrill, the union’s president.

Morrill noted that “The first [proposal] was improved job security for librarians and instructors, because they have less protection than professors do against layoffs for financial reasons.”

UMFA also secured provisions surrounding workload protection guidelines for librarians, which were not guaranteed when a short-term agreement was reached following a three-week strike in November 2016. Workload protections were also secured for instructors in the new contract.

Morrill said UMFA remains unsatisfied with the compensation members currently receive, referring to U of M faculty as “poorly paid” compared to other professors at a group of similar Canadian research universities of which the U of M is a member, branded the U15.

Morrill said interference from the provincial government on salary proposals “significantly hampered the negotiations,” a charge which also appeared on ratification ballots filled out by UMFA members.

Morrill said the provisions with respect to duress were necessary to point out.

“If we accepted the administration’s position without any caveats, it would appear that we were in agreement,” she said.

The increases in salaries will be consistent with the Public Services Sustainability Act (PSSA), a bill introduced in the provincial legislature in March of this year, which aims to “protect the sustainability of public services” in Manitoba by imposing wage freezes on public sector employees as expired employment contracts come up for renegotiation. Not yet passed into law, UMFA calls this bill “unproclaimed and unconstitutional.”

“The constitutional implications of what the government has done shouldn’t be taken lightly,” Morrill added.

UMFA has argued that the terms of the PSSA, applied to employees of the university, hampers bargaining in good faith, as monetary items of the contract can’t be negotiated freely.

The salary increases for the first three years covered by the contract are zero per cent, 0.75 per cent, and one per cent, respectively.

Salary increases for the fourth year of the contract will be negotiated in the final year.

Morrill said that the faculty and librarians are enthusiastic about the upcoming academic year.

John Danakas, the University of Manitoba’s executive director of public affairs, congratulating both teams, said the agreement ensures a stable academic year.

“This is wonderful news for our entire community, bringing with it stability for both students and faculty,” he said.

Faculty have been without a contract since a one-year agreement, which brought to an end a 21-day strike that saw hundreds of classes interrupted, expired at the end of March.