Members of the U of M teachers’ association vote Monday evening on an agreement in principle

Interrupted classes and research at the University of Manitoba are set to resume on Tuesday – if academics approve a tentative deal that would end a 35-day strike.

Over the weekend, the university and its faculty association reached a preliminary deal that could see hundreds of employees return to work tomorrow after more than a month of disruption.

The union’s executive board unanimously recommended that its members vote in favor of the deal in a secret electronic ballot late Monday.

“What is included in this deal is certainly a positive next step in moving us forward towards improved recruitment and retention. Five years of salary freezes have really stuck us and we are falling behind,” said the president of the Orvie Dingwall union, which represents approximately 1,200 teachers. , instructors and librarians.

The results of the vote are expected to be released on Tuesday morning. Closing of polling stations at 11:30 p.m.

According to a mass email from the union, the agreement provides for postponing wage negotiations to binding arbitration so that a neutral third party can determine the general increases in the scale for 2021-2022, 2022-23 and 2023-24.


Supporters of the strike held a rally outside the U of M administration building last week. (Tyler Searle / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The two sides would agree on an arbitrator, who would ignore government mandates and be guided by “reasonable advancement to” the 25th percentile of U15s (Group of Canadian Research Universities), according to the email.

Other key elements of the agreement that are not subject to arbitration include: various adjustments to the salary scale; the creation of a committee to study technology in teaching at the U of M; and the addition of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to the list of UMFA holidays.

Dingwall said the union is ready to hold a picket line tomorrow, but many teachers are bracing for a return to work. If an agreement is not ratified, the strike could continue until the end of the month, when it ends and arbitration would begin automatically under provincial labor laws.

Hundreds of faculty members stopped teaching and checking their emails when the action began on November 2. Almost six out of 10 courses – more than 3,600 conferences, laboratories and other sections – remain affected by the strike.

The U of M academic calendar has been adjusted four times to account for teaching implications. The latest iteration means the end of the fall term will be sandwiched between the holidays, there will be a 72-hour review period, and the winter reading week is now condensed into one day.

“We kind of want to strike – as students – if we don’t have a week of reading. It’s just ridiculous,” said Owen Dunnigan, a fourth-year fine arts student.

The 22-year-old has mixed feelings about the prospect of resuming classes this week. On the one hand, Dunnigan is relieved that the strike may be over. On the other hand, he said there was “the frustration of feeling like a pawn.”

The university and its faculty association have reached a preliminary deal that could see hundreds of employees return to work on Tuesday after more than a month of disruption.  (Jessica Lee Files / Winnipeg Free Press)

The university and its faculty association have reached a preliminary deal that could see hundreds of employees return to work on Tuesday after more than a month of disruption. (Jessica Lee Files / Winnipeg Free Press)

“It’s just frustrating to feel like you’re investing in school instead of being a student because they take my money and say they don’t have money,” he said. -he adds.

Being an international student from Minnesota, Dunnigan planned his trip home this weekend, based on the original school calendar. He will likely need to participate in some form of distance learning, without access to studio equipment, to complete the term.

In a message posted on the university’s website, President and Vice-Chancellor Michael Benarroch admitted that the strike “was particularly hard” on the students.

“As we resume classes and halt research, we are committed to providing you with the support you need during this transition,” Benarroch wrote.

“I know that this strike touched you personally and affected your perception of our establishment. We are committed to ensuring a swift transition to classes so that you can successfully complete the academic year.

The ongoing labor dispute can be attributed to years of stagnant wages, aside from annual performance increases, due to the Progressive Conservative government’s defunct legislation on public sector pay freezes.

Professors have expressed concerns about how the U of M’s low salary scale compared to other established research universities affects staffing.

The U of M said its goal is to reach an agreement that addresses recruitment and retention issues while supporting quality education and sustainability.

A provincial wage mandate, which the union describes as interference, also caused tensions between the parties. However, the government has insisted that such a mandate is standard practice for a manager of public funds.

– with files from Adam Treusch

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the educational journalist Free Press comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

Ida M. Morgan