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Arbitration on UMFA matters concludes

July 16, 2014 — 

Arbitration between the University of Manitoba and the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) has concluded with the arbitrator maintaining the status-quo on most issues.

On October 21, 2013, the University of Manitoba and UMFA successfully negotiated a new collective agreement and avoided a disruption in the academic term for students. A few points were unresolved, however, and the parties decided to move to binding arbitration, the last round of which concluded on April 8, 2014.

The arbitrator, Michael Werier, examined seven issues related to a variety of topics, including a governance definition, health care spending account increases, reduced appointments, parking fees, privacy, administrative support, discipline/investigative meetings and personnel files.

The arbitrator sided with the University on four crucial points, denying the requests from the Association on matters related to reduced appointments, administrative support, privacy, and discipline/investigative meetings and personnel files.

Reduced Appointments

The arbitrator sided with the University on matters related to reduced appointments. The background of this, briefly, is that from 1996 until 2013 faculty older than 69 could take half-time appointments under the Collective Agreement if they chose not to retire, but they could not continue full-time. During bargaining, the parties agreed that faculty members could stay on full-time after age 69.  However, the parties could not agree as to whether faculty members already on half-time appointments could return to full-time status.

The University noted that 49 faculty members would  be eligible to return to full-time status under the Association’s proposal, at a cost of about $3,677,000 (or 2.76% of the University of Manitoba’s entire payroll). This would also have practical challenges, such as re-integrating these professors into teaching and research activities when new faculty members have been hired to replace them.

The arbitrator agreed with the University and found that there are “compelling legal arguments which would preclude a Court overturning this policy.”

Administrative Support

In regard to administrative support, the Association argued that Article 16.9 in the Collective Agreement should be amended to guarantee  faculty members enhanced administrative support to work through new programs and systems, such as Concur, the new travel and expense software system.

The Association also requested that faculty members be given teaching space close to their offices and that they should not need to use Professional Development Funds to pay for desktop printers. They also proposed the University provide IT support to the faculty, school and library “at a level sufficient to maintain computers, printers and other equipment.”

The University opposed enshrining these supports in the Collective Agreement, as it would hamper the ability to find administrative efficiencies, but indicated its desire to support the work of faculty members appropriately.  The arbitrator concluded that the Association’s proposal has uncertain costs and so was reluctant to intervene, advising the parties to continue their discussions.

Privacy

The Association proposed new provisions that would supersede and in some cases contradict legislation such as FIPPA (The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act).  The Association proposed the University not disclose professional communications or files of a faculty member unless compelled to do so by existing law. Such a proposal, the University argued, would restrict its ability to implement new software and update its administrative systems.

The University argued that it manages privacy well and puts resources into this management, including three full-time staff and legal input. The University did allow that they had common ground with the Association’s submission: the University does not have custody control of certain things and does not want it.

“While the Association vigorously expressed the need for change and that a compelling case has been made for change, I am not satisfied, on balance, that the current system is not functioning to such a degree that warrants arbitral intervention,” the arbitrator wrote. “Further, as argued by the University, there is not compelling evidence that the University lags behind other comparable institutions in regards to its provisions in this area.”

Discipline/Investigation Meetings and Personnel Files

The Association sought mandatory disclosure provisions which could have prevented the University from complying with such University policies as the Respectful Work and Learning Environment Policy and the Responsible Conduct of Research, as well as such legislation as the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act.  Moreover, the Association proposal would have restricted the ability of the University to protect vulnerable persons (including junior faculty members and students) from reprisals and other harms.

The Arbitrator found that the University currently has a system in place and there is no evidence of a systemic problem. He did, however, note that monitoring this issue is appropriate, given that “one would expect at an institute of higher learning, the rules of natural justice would and will be applied.”

Governance

The Association requested to change the definition of “Faculty/School Council” in Article 1.  This would have had the impact of requiring in-person meetings whenever a dean or director consults with or receives advice from the council.  The arbitrator did not think such a change is needed at this time.

Costs

The arbitrator found for the Association on the only proposal the University put forth in arbitration, which was related to increasing faculty parking fees. Faculty members’ parking fees will increase at the rate proposed by the Association (2.9%, 2.0% and 2.0% over the three years of the contract).

The arbitrator also increased faculty members’ health care spending accounts slightly more generously than had been offered by the University, increasing them by $50 for April 1, 2014, and by $75 for April 1, 2015.

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