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Buller Building on Fort Garry campus on Nov. 18, 2021. // Photo from Chris Reid

UM responds to UMFA’s latest offer, asks mediator for advice on next steps

November 20, 2021 — 

UM has carefully reviewed UMFA’s latest proposal and worked with the union to ensure both parties understand how each offer is costed. There is still significant distance between the offers, both on monetary and non-monetary. With significant distance remaining between the respective offers, the university is asking the mediator for advice on how to move forward to resolve the strike and reach a fair settlement for UMFA members.

Here is an overview of the university’s reasoning and response to UMFA’s November 16 proposal, amended on November 19:

Monetary

The university and UMFA agree on a number of important changes to the university’s salary structure necessary to establish and maintain competitiveness. However:

  • The parties remain at odds over the amount of General Salary Increases and targeted market adjustments.
  • UMFA’s November 16 proposal amended on November 19 for a three-year agreement would result in a minimum cumulative cost increase of at least $43.8M over the three-year period on a current annual total payroll of approximately $149M.
  • The university’s proposal for a three-year agreement would result in a cumulative cost increase of $25.5M over the three-year period on this same current annual payroll.
  • While UMFA’s proposed GSI increases by themselves are comparable to increases at other Manitoba public sector employers and universities across the country, the university must consider the overall cost of the proposal including UMFA’s proposed market increases and structural changes. As a whole, the proposal is not financially or operationally sustainable.

Given these factors, the parties do not appear to be within reach of a monetary settlement.

Non-monetary

Contiguous vacation

Under the current collective agreement, UMFA members receive 27 days of vacation per year in addition to statutory holidays.

UMFA’s proposal seeks a guarantee that members can take all 27 days in one block, or 5 weeks and 2 days all at once. The university has rejected this request because:

  • A contractual obligation to allow faculty to take 27 days of consecutive vacation would interfere with the university’s ability to deliver some academic programs.
  • UMFA has not identified any examples of members who have experienced difficulties taking vacation, and the university has received no grievances relating to vacation over the course of the prior collective agreement.
  • The university does not track or schedule members’ vacations and would need to start tracking vacations in order to give effect to this proposal.

The university provided a counterproposal to permit any member who is not able to arrange at least 3 weeks of vacation contiguously to discuss options for resolution with their dean. UMFA’s response was to maintain its proposal.

Online learning 

UMFA proposed that members be entitled to refuse teaching distance or online courses, and to refuse the integration of distance or online delivery modes (such as UM Learn) with in-person teaching. The university does not consider these to be reasonable proposals because:

  • They interfere with the ability of academic units to offer flexible and accessible options for students in order to provide them with the best possible learning experiences.
  • The University is not prepared to put limits on modes of delivery that would disadvantage students.

In recognition of the pandemic’s impact on the use of technology in teaching, the university tabled a counterproposal to establish a committee which will consider digital teaching and learning at the University of Manitoba, including strategies to support faculty members and students. The university proposes that students at both the graduate and undergraduate level have a seat at the table, and that the committee would report to all parties and Senate, the ultimate governing body on academic matters, for discussion. UMFA’s response was to maintain its proposal.

Return to work

Finally, UMFA has sought a return-to-work agreement which would require the university to pay members an amount equivalent to their lost salary for the period not worked during the strike, and to make pension contributions for members on strike, which UMFA is aware is not permitted by the University Pension Plan. The university has consistently advised UMFA that it will not provide back-pay or make pension contributions for members who have withdrawn their labour during the strike.

As a result of the significant distance between the offers, both on monetary and non-monetary, the university is asking the mediator for advice on how to move forward to resolve the strike and reach a fair settlement for UMFA members

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