U of M could be forced to pay $2.4-M over unfair labour practice with faculty

U of M could be forced to pay $2.4-M over unfair labour practice with faculty

The Manitoba Labour Board upheld its decision that the University of Manitoba should pay up to $2.4 million for engaging in unfair labour practice at the direction of the provincial government during a faculty strike in 2016.

Last week, the board rejected requests from both the U of M and the University of Manitoba Faculty Association to review portions of its decision on Jan. 29, 2018.

The UMFA filed a complaint shortly after the 21-day strike ended in November 2016, alleging the university failed to disclose that it had been ordered by the province to impose a one-year wage freeze during negotiations.

The university now faces a maximum fine of $2,000 for each faculty member at the time of the unfair labour practice, a total of $2.4 million, and the faculty association says it intends to push for the full amount.

"This reaffirms what we've said all along," UMFA president Janet Morrill said in a release. "UMFA came to the bargaining table in good faith in order to find a way to improve working conditions at the University, and that good faith was disrespected by both the University administration and the government."

The faculty association did not respond to a question about why it had asked for a review of the labour board's January decision.

In its reasons for decision, the board said UMFA "asked to consider whether any proven instance of bad faith bargaining by the University caused or contributed to the strike." The board's decision, however, makes no mention of the university having caused the strike.

"We're disappointed that the administration challenged the Labour Board's directive to apologize for what happened," Morrill said. "For that reason alone they should be required to pay the full damages."

The final amount the university will be forced to pay will be determined by negotiations with UMFA. The university turned down a request for comment from president David Barnard.

"At this point, the university is still assessing the decision and appropriate next steps," university spokesperson John Danakas said in an email.

Fine unfair to students: Kinew

During question period on Monday, Opposition NDP leader Wab Kinew said it's unfair that students should be asked to pay a fine that the university incurred due to interference from Premier Brian Pallister's government.

"Will the premier ensure that not one dollar of students' tuition is used to pay the fine that he`s responsible for?" Kinew asked.

Pallister responded by saying Kinew is "wrong in his assertion" and that his government is standing up for taxpayers.

"Nothing is more uncertain, nothing leads to greater confusion than the previous government's record of failing to establish any kind of bargaining of a real nature with its labour providers," Pallister said.

Following negotiations in 2016, the faculty association eventually agreed to the one-year offer, which came with a zero per cent salary increase but a commitment by the university to improve several governance issues and not lay off any librarians or instructors before the start of 2019.