U of W faculty association heads to a strike vote

A vote held on March 1 and March 2 will decide whether Kristine Hansen and her colleagues in the U of W faculty go on strike. Jordan Janisse

The University of Winnipeg Faculty Association (UWFA) voted on March 1 and 2 whether or not to strike after failing to reach an agreement with the University of Winnipeg over new contracts.

On Feb. 16, the University of Winnipeg Faculty Association (UWFA) rejected a contract proposed by the University of Winnipeg. This week they went to the bargaining table in the hopes of reaching an agreement, but did not.

The UWFA has been without a new contract since March 2010.

“In this situation, it is common for the union to take a strike vote,” said Kristine Hansen, president of the UWFA.

The UWFA represents over 400 employees of the university, including professors, librarians and instructors.

Every few years, a new contract is negotiated by the university and UWFA outlining principles of employment.

These include how employees are evaluated, conditions for promotion and salary.

Laurel Repski, the vice-president of human resources, audit and sustainability for the U of W, represents the U of W management at the bargaining table.

“I would suggest that we have a very good relationship with the UWFA and the university’s other unions,” Repski said prior to the second round of negotiations. “It’s typical that when contracts expire it takes some time to get to the bargaining table and work out an agreement.”

Repski pointed out that although the UWFA doesn’t have a contract right now, they are still operating under the old contract.

“They’re still getting pay increases based on the collective agreement, and everything in the collective agreement is still being managed (the old) way,” she added.

The University of Manitoba Faculty Association’s (UMFA) contract also expired in March 2010, but UMFA was able to negotiate a new one by September.

“Going this long (without a contract) is not very good,” said Cameron Morrill, president of the UMFA. “It means that the negotiations are going slowly and I am sure both sides would like to have an agreement relatively quickly.”

The UMFA went on strike in 1995 and 2001 due to failure to negotiate an agreement. In both cases, salaries were a main concern for faculty members.

Due to bargaining protocol in place between the university and UWFA, neither side can speak about the details of the offer or what conditions were considered unsatisfactory.

The Winnipeg Free Press reported that the offer rejected by the UWFA included a wage freeze for the first two years of the agreement and wage increases of 3.2 per cent and 3.3 per cent for the following and final two years.

The usual length of the negotiating process varies, but usually doesn’t take this long according to Hansen.

“The (UWFA) membership gets together and sets a bargaining mandate, kind of a wish list and set of objectives, ... then the negotiating teams get together and begin negotiating proposals,” said Hansen.

If a strike vote passes, the UWFA would have authorization to commence a strike if demands are not met.

Hansen had hoped that an agreement would have been reached between both sides on Monday, Feb. 28, but the possibility of a strike now looms over campus.

The results of the strike vote were not available by press time. Stay tuned to www.uniter.ca and the March 10 issue of The Uniter for more coverage.

**Update (Thursday, March 3, 9:16 a.m.) - Read the latest news here: University of Winnipeg faculty passes strike vote, sets deadline.