Manitoba

U of M strike: Back to drawing board after latest offer rejected

University of Manitoba administrators are heading back to the drawing board after striking faculty rejected the latest offer.

'We're not going to talk about writing off this fall term at this point'

The University of Manitoba faculty strike continues into Day 8 on Tuesday. (Bert Savard/CBC)

University of Manitoba administrators are heading back to the drawing board after striking faculty rejected the latest offer.

John Kearsey, vice-president of external relations for the university, said administrators will meet Wednesday to discuss their next move.

"We're not going to talk about writing off this fall term at this point. We're going to talk about what things we can do day by day to alleviate the impact of what it means having students outside of the classroom at this point," he said.

The offer pitched to the University of Manitoba Faculty Association on Sunday night proposed to end the strike — now in Day 8 — by hiring graduate students to help professors with their workload concerns.

"We held out hope that we were going to be able to satisfy some of the concerns, start a difference conversation about this that took students out of it. And that's what's disappointing for us, because we have 30,000 students affected by this, and we need a compromise."

Faculty association president Mark Hudson said the proposal did not go far enough to protect members from arbitrary workload increases. If administration was serious about dealing with workload, it should hire teaching assistants and markers immediately, without tying it to bargaining, he said.

Hudson previously said demands on professors have been increasing year over year "partly through different kinds of administrative work that's being downloaded onto faculty," leaving faculty members spending more time in their offices instead of engaging with students and researching.

That's what's disappointing for us, because we have 30,000 students affected by this, and we need a compromise.- John Kearsey, University of Manitoba

"We think we have been crystal clear from the beginning for the basic protections that we are asking for, and so it's incredibly frustrating to read a proposal that doesn't seem to respond to what we have been telling them across the table," he said.

Kearsey agreed the offer wasn't perfect but said administration was hoping to "satisfy some of the concerns" and let students get back to class.

Hudson said UMFA's plan now is to keep talking to members and students about the issues and keep the communication lines open with administration.

"The UM administration has characterized our proposal on workload as stripping deans of their management rights," he said.

"Our response to that is first, that variants of our proposal already exist at other Canadian universities; second, that it makes deans and faculty both responsible for establishing workload guidelines; and third, that the entire process of collective bargaining is about setting limits on management rights.

"That's the point — to ensure that we all have rights within our workplaces."

More than 1,200 faculty members hit the picket lines on Nov. 1 and will continue to strike until a deal is reached, Hudson said.

Although many classes at the university are taught by non-UMFA members — teaching assistants and sessional instructors — and are continuing, the majority of students at the university are also registered in classes with professors who are now on the picket lines.

Information about the status of courses, classroom scheduling and service changes can be found on the university's website.