Manitoba

U of M strike: Classes back on after 3-week walkout ends with new deal

University of Manitoba students head back to class this morning after three weeks spent waiting for faculty and administration to sort out a new deal.

'Very exciting to be going back to work,' ethics prof says after union inks deal with university

The University of Manitoba Faculty Association voted to accept a new collective agreement. (Bert Savard/CBC)

University of Manitoba students head back to class this morning after three weeks spent waiting for faculty and administration to sort out a new contract.

"It's very exciting to be going back to work," U of M bioethics Prof. Arthur Schafer said. "I think it was a very important set of issues and we've achieved most, though not all, of the objectives we had. Definitely worth it."

Classes will go later in December and exams will be written in January, but the fall session will be completed, Schafer said.

University of Manitoba students head back to class this morning after three weeks spent waiting for faculty and administration to sort out a new contract. 1:31

Susan Gottheil, vice-provost of students at the U of M, said classes that continued through the strike won't be affected, but those that were disrupted will extend into the first week of January. Exams for those classes will be in January, she said.

"But we've been able to ensure that all classes and all exams will be finished by the end of April, which is a great thing. I think everyone is relieved," Gottheil said. "I think everyone is just happy that we're going to be able to get back to doing what we do best."

First-year biology student Rebecca Goossen said the first day back was "a little overwhelming" and she isn't thrilled about having to study over the holidays for January exams.

Prithvi Panesar, a second-year international student studying mechanical engineering, said he knows students feel stressed out about the disruption but he's confident they will adapt to the new schedule.

"It's very chaotic for everybody, but we will get through this," he said.

Getting back on track

UMFA president Mark Hudson said the disruption will pose challenges for professors and students alike, but he feels the strike was worth it.

The wins we managed to get through 20 days of walking the picket lines are in our eyes things that are good for scholarship, good for science and good for students- Mark Hudson, UMFA  president

"We know that's frustrating for everyone," he said. "The wins we managed to get through 20 days of walking the picket lines are in our eyes things that are good for scholarship, good for science and good for students in the long run. And I think it's unfortunate it took us this long … to get these fairly straightforward things in our contract."

University of Manitoba Faculty Association members went on strike Nov. 1 after months of tense bargaining with U of M administration stalled. The union of roughly 1,200 professors, instructors and librarians voted to accept the latest deal from the university at a meeting Monday night.​​

UMFA members accepted a one-year agreement that addresses "workload protections, enhancement to collegial governance and fair assessment practices," said a news release from the faculty association on Monday. 

Limits on mounting workload

Hudson said he is satisfied the newest deal puts protections in place that could limit professors' mounting workloads.

"Finally in our collective agreement we have some language that protects us through a collegial process against administration ramping up our workloads potentially limitlessly," Hudson said, adding the protections will allow professors and instructors to do their jobs more effectively.

We have to find a different way of listening to each other and resolving the differences that we have, and I think that we're all committed to doing that.- Susan  Gottheil , U of M vice-provost of students

The union and university have agreed to study performance review models that are used to rate professors to determine whether they work, or whether they provide "unfair and inaccurate" assessments, Hudson said.

There is a new level of communication between UMFA and the administration, Gottheil said, and she hopes there won't be another strike for two to three decades or more.

"It's not a question of who's won, who's lost," Gottheil said. 

"I think that everyone agrees, UMFA and the university, that what's happened over the past few weeks is not what should happen in the future. And we have to find a different way of listening to each other and resolving the differences that we have, and I think that we're all committed to doing that."

The faculty association filed an unfair labour practice complaint earlier this month against the provincial government, saying the province inappropriately inserted itself in the bargaining process.

The union says the province encouraged the university to withdraw a salary offer, contrary to the university's obligations under the Labour Relations Act of Manitoba.

0% salary increase

The faculty association agreed to a zero per cent salary increase in exchange for "improvements to governance issues," and the university also committed to no layoffs for librarians or instructors before the start of 2019.

Students upset with the strike who may be considering transferring to a different post-secondary institution should stick around, Gottheil said.

"You're in a great place. University of Manitoba is a large community and we're able to provide the supports that students need and the extra learning that other places can't," Gottheil said.

With files from Meaghan Ketcheson and Meagan Fiddler