'Ready to move': U of M faculty to present new proposal as bargaining resumes

Students at the University of Manitoba are worried if a deal isn't reached Wednesday both semesters will be effected.

Deal needs to be reached before impact of strike rattles next university term as well

UMFA is expected to bring a new proposal on workload to the administration on Wednesday afternoon. (CBC)

Bargaining teams for the University of Manitoba administration and faculty association are going to try again.

The two sides are heading back to the table Wednesday afternoon with the union saying it is bringing a new proposal on workload, one of the key sticking points of the impasse.

"We believe we have found a creative solution that would provide our members with the kinds of basic protections found at most Canadian universities, and do so in a way that addresses the main concern the administration expressed in conciliation and in the media this week," said University of Manitoba Faculty Association president Mark Hudson.

"This is not just a high-level proposal. We will arrive prepared with specific, practical, workable proposed language. We welcome the administration back to the bargaining table.

"We are ready to move."

The two sides have been in on-and-off discussions since March 2016, when the last collective agreement expired. They are trying to work out a deal before the impact of the strike — now in its 16th day — rattles the next university term as well.

Upheaval if deal not made

Administration has said that if the dispute isn't resolved by Wednesday, it will create upheaval for the term that starts in January. More than 29,000 students at the university have already had classes juggled in the current term.

UMFA, which represents more than 1,200 members, hit the picket line on Nov. 1 after mediation with administration failed. A provincially appointed conciliator was brought in Nov. 2 but those talks ended last weekend without any resolution.

John Kearsey, vice-president of external relations for the U of M, said administration decided on Sunday that the discussions couldn't continue because "they were going nowhere."

The decision to resume bargaining on Wednesday was made Tuesday night.

Students worried

Student Tania Wiebe is concerned that if her classes don't restart again, she won't be able to apply for the school's nursing program. 

"I've missed three midterm exams and finals are in less than a month right now. I am stressing out," she said. "I don't have my lecture notes. I don't have any communication with my professors on questions and stuff."

Four of her five classes have been cancelled and she said if next semester is disrupted too, she's going to be stressed out.

"I felt like I should have just taken a year off and missed this entire catastrophe instead of spending thousands of dollars and not getting anywhere," she said. 

Zachary Morin, a first year student studying architecture, said he's trying to remain positive but it's difficult. 

"I'm just hoping everything doesn't get pushed back too far. Otherwise it will actually affect the majority of people here," he said. 

Some classes have been going on as usual because they are taught by non-UMFA members — teaching assistants and sessional instructors. However, most students are registered in classes with professors who are on the picket lines.

While Brendan Doan has only had one class cancelled by the strike, he said it's still leaving him behind. 

"If this vote doesn't go through then the whole next semester is delayed, and if the strike goes until next week, we also lose our midterm break and no one wants that," he said.