Professors reach collective agreement with U of W administration

Strike narrowly avoided

  • U of W students were in school as usual on March 10 after a potential faculty strike was averted. – Jordan Janisse

After a year of negotiations, bargaining and threats of a strike, the University of Winnipeg Faculty Association (UWFA) has a new collective agreement with U of W administration.

The agreement includes an increase of 5.41 per cent to the wages of UWFA members, which includes over 350 professors, librarians, coaches and athletic therapists at the university.

“Obviously we are very happy that the union membership voted in favour of it,” said Dan Hurley, associate vice-president of external affairs for the U of W. “We can now move forward.”

Wages were a main concern for the union in negotiating the new agreement. Professors at the U of W are the lowest paid in the province, and felt they deserve wages similar to their colleagues at other universities.

The UWFA twice rejected offers from U of W administration before taking a strike vote on March 2.

The vote passed overwhelmingly, with 90 per cent of voters in favour of allowing the UWFA executives to issue a strike if need be.

If bargaining failed, a strike was set to begin on March 9 at 12:01 a.m.

At the end of this difficult period of negotiations, we are happy to be in our classrooms with our students to finish up the academic term.

Kristine Hansen, UWFA president

That weekend, UWFA chief negotiator Wendy Josephson stepped down from her position and was replaced by Canadian Association of University Teachers negotiator Peter Simpson.

On March 7, students and supporters of the UWFA marched in solidarity to strike headquarters, only to be later informed that the strike deadline was to be pushed back a day to allow a provincial conciliator time to look over the issues.

After a few tense weeks, U of W administration presented an offer which the UWFA executives found appealing enough to bring to a member vote.

Thirty minutes before the strike was to begin, it was called off.

UWFA members voted on the proposal March 11, when it was passed.

Over this time period, the UWFA accused university administration of fear mongering and presenting false salary statistics to the media.

A spokesperson from the administration suggested at one point that if UWFA members got the 2.8 per cent yearly increase over 3 years, tuition fees could rise 10 per cent for students.

Hurley said that in the end, that will not be the case.

“As with anything, the agreement will be taken from the operating budget. We’ll plan for that in our next two years of budgets,” he said.

In a news release, UWFA president Kristine Hansen expressed her approval of the agreement.

“At the end of this difficult period of negotiations, we are happy to be in our classrooms with our students to finish up the academic term,” said Hansen.

“The settlement is reasonable in the Manitoba university context, and it builds the basis for fairness in the years to come. We appreciate everyone’s efforts to conclude an equitable agreement.”

Published in Volume 65, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 17, 2011)

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