U of M could lose $9.4M if faculty association wins court case: report
UMFA suing for wages lost during 2016 faculty strike
The University of Manitoba could lose $9.4 million if the Manitoba Labour Board rules against it in an unfair labour practice dispute with the union representing faculty.
That calculation comes from a financial report presented to the U of M board of governors in June, which includes an estimate of the potential costs if the university loses its case.
According to minutes from the meeting included in the agenda of a board meeting on Tuesday, "in the event that the University of Manitoba Faculty Association is successful in their complaint, the unfair labour practice charge being heard at the Manitoba Labour Board could result in a cost of $9.4 million to the university."
UMFA alleges the university bargained in bad faith during contract negotiations in 2016, when the provincial government allegedly told the university to rescind a four-year proposal that included wage increases, and replace it with a one-year agreement with a wage freeze.
The faculty association is suing the university over wages lost by its 1,200 members during a three-week strike last year, which it says was caused by the university following through on the province's directive.
UMFA part of court challenge over wage freezes
U of M spokesperson John Danakas said the estimation is simply a risk management accounting practice. "As a public institution the university calculates potential costs in various scenarios," Danakas said in an email.
UMFA president Janet Morrill said the union hasn't done its own estimation of the potential amount the university might have to pay.
If the university is ordered to compensate faculty, Morrill said she doesn't think it will impact relations between the university and its staff.
"UMFA's position is the university performed an unfair labour practice and there were damages resulting from that, and we hope we get those damages, but I think both we and the university have moved on from that," she said.
"This is now 10 months later, we've gone through another round of collective bargaining and so I think that, if there are damages, we will attribute that to the behaviour last fall."
The faculty association is also part of a group of public sector unions taking the province to court over the Public Services Sustainability Act, which imposed a two-year wage freeze following the conclusion of collective agreements with provincial employees, followed by a 0.75 per cent increase in the third year and a 1 per cent increase in the fourth year.
The one-year contract between UMFA and the university expired in March. In August, UMFA ratified a new four-year contract that includes a wage freeze for the first year, with increases of 0.75 per cent and 1 per cent in the second and third years.
The union and the university will return to the bargaining table in 2020 to negotiate wage increase in the final year of the contract.
With files from Shane Gibson and Kristin Annabel