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University’s proposal to address outstanding issues rejected by UMFA

October 31, 2016 — 

The University of Manitoba today requested that the Province appoint a Conciliation Officer to help with negotiations after the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) declared an impasse and rejected the University’s proposal to address outstanding issues.

The UMFA leadership dismissed the University’s new proposal within 30 minutes of receiving it. This is at least the third offer from the University that has been rejected by UMFA leadership.

At this point, the understanding is the UMFA members will be on strike at midnight tonight with picket lines going up on the campus at 7 a.m. About 30,000 U of M students will be affected.

The University asked UMFA to extend the strike deadline while the parties meet with the Conciliation Officer on Wednesday but that request was rejected.

“UMFA is making the decision to strike. This is not the University’s decision. The University has moved a long way on the issues that have been identified through UMFA,” said John Kearsey, the University’s Vice-President (External). “We are willing to continue discussions but it is difficult to have these discussions from the picket line.”

Conciliation does not stop the strike from happening but it means the two sides will be at the same table to try to work through the issues to reach a successful contract.

The University and UMFA spent the weekend with a mediator trying to find a resolution. The talks broke down after UFMA’s negotiators presented the University with what they described as their final offer.

The University’s negotiating team worked into the early hours of Monday morning preparing a counter proposal to the faculty association – which was promptly rejected by UFMA leadership.

Now, as the strike approaches, the University’s primary concern is the impact of a strike on students. The University will do everything possible to mitigate the impact on students.

“I am really thinking about students today as we head into tomorrow,” said Kearsey. “I have deep respect for the students who come to our campus. I know this situation will create confusion, angst and concern and we want to do everything we can to allay all of that.”

In the event of a strike, it is anticipated teaching assistants, sessional instructors and other non-UMFA members will continue to teach their classes. To the greatest extent possible we try to deliver programs and classes for our students.

While there has been agreement on many substantive issues over the last seven months of negotiations, outstanding issues relate to teaching load and performance metrics.

A new collective agreement will be reached by both parties remaining engaged in collective bargaining.

“Everyone within the University community takes seriously the impact of a strike on students, faculty, and staff and for the sustainability of the University long-term. We are committed to doing everything possible to find a solution so that student learning is not compromised. We know this interest is shared by everyone who is part of the University community.”

All members of the University community are encouraged to visit several times daily for updates.

Given the media attention this week on the question of government’s involvement in the negotiation, Kearsey believed it was important to clarify: “The University has been in discussions with government regarding the Province’s new mandate to pause public compensation for one year since October 6th. There were several meetings and discussions held between the University and Provincial officials to discuss the implication of the mandate. The University shared with UMFA the new circumstances as part of the mediation process, with the intention of working together through mediation to reach a workable solution. The government was not involved in mediation in any way. Although the mandate was shared late in the negotiation process, presenting some challenges, there was certainly time and opportunity to reach an agreement.”

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