Red River College Polytech, Assiniboine Community College staff vote in favour of strike

Staff at Manitoba’s Red River College Polytechnic and Assiniboine Community College have voted in favour of a strike.

It doesn’t necessarily mean workers will hit the picket line, but it gives the union the authority to take strike action “if necessary,” the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union said in a Friday news release.

The vote affects nearly 1,900 staff working as instructors and in administrative and information technology roles at the colleges’ campuses in Winnipeg, Brandon, Portage la Prairie, Selkirk, Winkler, Steinbach and Dauphin.

Union members are working hard for students “but they have been struggling,” MGEU president Kyle Ross said in Friday’s statement.

Instructors and other support staff at the two colleges are among the lowest-paid in the country, he said, and there is also a “huge issue” with recruitment and retention.

Red River College Polytech released a statement on Friday saying its operations will continue as normal for now.

The college “respects the bargaining process and the union’s right to strike,” spokesperson Conor Lloyd wrote in the statement, but “strongly believes we can reach a meaningful resolution at the bargaining table.”

An Assiniboine Community College spokesperson also said the college respects the right to take a strike vote, “and that’s fairly common in bargaining.”

Spokesperson Anya McNabb said in her statement the college cannot comment on specifics of the negotiation process, but that it is committed to working with the union “to reach a fair and equitable agreement.”

MGEU will continue to negotiate with the two post-secondary institutions with the help of a conciliator, Ross said in the union’s statement.