Profs stand firm as conciliation talks begin with U of M
Pickets up for 2nd day at Manitoba's largest university
As conciliation talks begin at the University of Manitoba, the faculty association says it's standing firm on what it wants.
"We've been building these demands and these priorities for over a year of meeting with our members in their departments, and they're determined to make sure that we get something adequate at the table," said Mark Hudson, president of the University of Manitoba Faculty Association.
More than 1,200 faculty members at the U of M's Fort Garry and Bannatyne campuses went on strike at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. The pickets went up again Wednesday morning and Hudson said until a new deal is reached, they will go up every weekday from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m.
The two sides have been in discussions since March, when the last collective agreement expired.
- U of M strike starts with pickets up Tuesday morning
- U of M site of 'one of the most bitter' Canadian university strikes in 1995
John Kearsey, vice-president of external relations for the U of M, said administration is exploring all possible options to minimize the disruption to the university's 30,000 students.
Many classes are taught by non-bargaining members — teaching assistants and sessional instructors — and those continue as usual.
- Info on courses, classroom scheduling and service changes can be found on the university's website.
Wednesday's conciliation meeting won't stop the strike from happening but it does mean the two sides will once again be at the table to try to work through the issues.
"We're going into it hopeful," Hudson said. "We want students back in the classroom. We want to be back in the classroom. A strike is a disruptive thing and we'd like it to be over."
Hudson said the main issues on the table centre around evaluations for UMFA members — ensuring tenure and promotion as well as performance evaluations are fair and accurate. Workload protection and job security issues for instructors and librarians are also key.
Salary issues have been put aside for the moment to be pursued though legal avenues by the union. The association is speaking with its legal team about possibly filing an unfair labour practice complaint, claiming the university, at the last minute, withdrew a salary offer.
"Our hope is, after one day of striking and seeing the resolve of our membership — that these are really serious issues, issues that we're not willing to just drop — that we'll see some flexibility and movement [by the U of M] at the bargaining table," Hudson said.
Mediation versus conciliation
Negotiations first broke down earlier this month, resulting in faculty voting for strike action. Initially, that was set to start Oct. 22, but a mediator was brought in and the date was extended to Nov. 1.
Mediation failed on the weekend and the pickets went up Tuesday morning.
"We still have the same priorities on the table as we did during the mediation session," Hudson said on Wednesday.
The mediation and conciliation processes are very similar, with a neutral third party working to assist the negotiations.
A mediator is someone both parties agree to use and facilitates rather than directs the negotiating process, whereas a conciliator is appointed by the government and will play a more active role.
A conciliator will also meet with both parties separately as well as together in an attempt to resolve their differences.
Student day of action
It's not just university faculty who are trying to get a message across to the public on Wednesday.
Students from across Manitoba will march through part of downtown Winnipeg as part of the National Student Day of Action. The aim of the march is to pressure government officials to deliver accessible post-secondary education to everyone, according to the Canadian Federation of Students.
We have a struggle going on here over the quality of education at the U of M, but they have a long-standing struggle over access to education.- UMFA president Mark Hudson
The march will begin at the University of Winnipeg and head to the legislative building.
Hudson said a number of UMFA members will be joining the students to show support.
"It's a hugely important issue," he said. "We have a struggle going on here over the quality of education at the U of M, but they have a long-standing struggle over access to education.
"Those two go hand-in-glove to some extent, so we'll be out there supporting them at the U of W and at the legislature."
Talks wrapped up Wednesday evening and the two parties are set to be back at the table Thursday morning.