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U of Winnipeg professors vote for 4 1/2-year deal

Article from the Winnipeg Free Press

By: Nick Martin
Posted: August 2, 2016

Professors at the University of Winnipeg have voted 91 per cent in favour of a new contract retroactive to this past March that will cover them beyond the next provincial election.

They accepted a 7.5 per cent raise over 54 months in a contract that runs until September 2020, said University of Winnipeg Faculty Association acting president Jacqueline Romanow. Compounded, the raises increase faculty wages by 7.73 per cent by the end of the contract, which also makes some pension improvements.

Professors heeded the union's advice that this was as good a deal as they were likely to get, and their leadership's warning that they should grab the money before the Pallister government slashes funding.

Romanow said the vote was tallied Friday after a month-long voting period which took into account the small number of faculty on campus in July and the possibility of a postal strike affecting the mail-in vote.

UWFA had urged its members to accept the offer before feared provincial government funding cuts. The union told the professors early in July that there was no point in striking — the university had no more money to offer, and Premier Brian Pallister would end any strike by legislating public-sector employees back to work.

"The employer made the offer in order to get an agreement in place before collective bargaining at the University of Winnipeg could become a casualty of the increasingly difficult labour climate we are facing in Manitoba. Unfortunately, the provincial political climate is trending against the interests of organized labour support for some time. Based on our information about the financial state of the university, we believe that the UW is currently unable to put much more money into any offer," Romanow told the membership in a letter obtained by the Free Press.

Romanow said Tuesday that the union was unaware of any direct threat, but there is a general sense in the public sector that major cuts are coming.

"Objectively, the only 'windfall' agreements (annual increases of more than 1.5 per cent) we are seeing predate the Pallister government," Romanow told the membership.

Romanow said in the union's recommendation to accept the proferred deal that once the Tories complete their value-for-money audit of government spending and their examination of the province's debt, "The government will consider this a mandate to press for extensive cuts across government services and programs. There is no reason to think that post-secondary education will remain untouched."

The UWFA acting president told the membership that other, unnamed, public-sector bargaining units are reporting that they're being offered wage freezes.

Like the UWFA, the University of Manitoba Faculty Association has been without a contract since last winter.

Meanwhile, teachers in four of the province's 37 school divisions have been without a contract for more than 25 months. The others have four-year deals through June 30, 2018, at a compounded increase of 9.03 per cent.

The Pallister government has not responded so far to any of the allegations that UWFA made about cuts and back-to-work legislation.