The union representing staff at the University of Manitoba has moved one step closer to a strike.
Members of the University of Manitoba Faculty Association voted to authorize the union to hold a strike vote Wednesday night.
The union, which represents full-time professors, librarians, lecturers and instructors at the school, says salaries at the U of M are among the lowest in the country, making recruitment and retention of staff a problem.
“Students rely on us every day in classrooms, libraries, and labs. We want the University of Manitoba to continue being a great university. That means embracing great instructors, professors and librarians, and keeping the talent we have,” said UMFA president Orvie Dingwall in a release.
“It’s hard to attract new staff and keep existing staff when they can work elsewhere for fewer hours and more money.”
The union is accusing the Manitoba government of interfering in its negotiations with the school, which started in August.
“The offer closely resembles the wage freeze restrictions forced upon the public sector by former Premier Brian Pallister in 2016 under the Public Services Sustainability Act (PSSA), which in June 2020 were deemed “draconian” and unconstitutional by the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench,” the union said of the school’s wage offer in a release.
The Progressive Conservative government introduced the Public Services Sustainability Act in 2017, one year after being elected on a promise to control spending.
The bill included a two-year wage freeze for each new collective agreement, followed by pay increases of 0.75 per cent in the third year and one per cent in the fourth.
Although the bill was passed by the legislature, it was never proclaimed into law and the government held out the possibility of amending it.
But the public-sector unions that took the government to court said the bill was already affecting contract talks.
In a June 2020 decision, Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Joan McKelvey sided with the unions, calling the bill unduly harsh and a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“I have concluded that the (bill) operates as a draconian measure that has inhibited and dramatically reduced the unions’ bargaining power and violates (charter) associational rights,” McKelvey wrote.
“The (bill) has made it impossible for the plaintiffs to achieve their collective goals and limits the right to freedom of association.”
Dingwall says the union is asking for salaries more in line with similar institutions across the country, as well as more equitable hiring, tenure, and promotional processes.
The strike vote will take place Oct. 16-18, with results expected to be reported on Oct. 19.
–With files from The Canadian Press