Province won’t appeal high court ruling in U of Manitoba faculty union case: justice minister

The Manitoba government is throwing in the towel after the province’s highest court upheld a decision ordering the province to pay more than $19 million to the University of Manitoba Faculty Association for interfering in the 2016 collective bargaining process.

Manitoba Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said in a statement Thursday that the government respects the Manitoba Court of Appeal’s July 13 ruling, and will not be seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Premier Heather Stefanson “has strongly signalled that it is time to turn the page” on the dispute, the statement said.

However, the justice minister maintained the province’s earlier decision to appeal to Manitoba’s highest court “was in the interest of all Manitobans.”

In February 2022, a judgment from what was then Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench said the province interfered in contract negotiations between the University of Manitoba and the UMFA.

Justice Joan McKelvey found that a one-year wage-freeze mandate imposed by the province late in the bargaining process violated the faculty association’s Charter right to meaningful collective bargaining, which led to a 21-day strike in 2016.

McKelvey ordered the province to pay the union damages totalling more than $19.4 million.

But the province appealed that decision in May 2022, claiming McKelvey made legal errors in awarding damages based on the assumption there would have been a four-year collective agreement and in awarding damages for the costs and wage losses of the 2016 strike.

On July 13, Manitoba’s Court of Appeal court dismissed that appeal with costs.

“I am not convinced that the trial judge erred in law or made palpable and overriding factual error,” wrote Justice Diana Cameron in the ruling.