Members of the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) have voted in favour of hitting the picket line over an ongoing labour dispute with the school’s administration.
In a release Monday, UMFA said 80 per cent of its voting members approved a potential strike action.
The union says 85 per cent of its members took part in the three days of voting, which started Friday.
“It’s time for (U of M) President (Michael) Benarroch to do what is best for the University community and agree to neutral, third party interest arbitration, or return to the bargaining table with a reasonable counter-offer,” said UMFA president Michael Shaw in the release.
Shaw has previously told 680 CJOB discussions between UMFA and the school have been ongoing since August and stem from a deal made after the Manitoba Labour Board ruled the university committed an unfair labour practice during bargaining with the faculty association in the fall of 2016.
The association filed a complaint at the height of a three-week strike in November 2016, stating the university had failed to disclose that the new Progressive Conservative government had asked the university to freeze faculty salaries.
While the university and faculty association ultimately ratified a four-year collective agreement, which included no wage increase in the first year, followed by 0.75 per cent and one per cent raises in the second and third years, both sides agreed to renegotiate the agreement’s year-four salary in the fourth year.
Shaw has said the union has offered to go to binding arbitration with the university, but the administration has so far refused, he said.
When asked for comment Monday, a university spokesperson pointed Global News to a statement posted to the University of Manitoba’s website Friday.
In the statement, the school says its priority is “doing what we can to prevent any further disruption to students’ lives.”
“We cannot speak about the specifics of the bargaining because we are committed to a fair bargaining process, but we want to assure you that our focus remains on reaching an agreement, at the bargaining table,” reads the statement from the school’s president and vice-presidents.
“The impacts of the global pandemic and other factors have altered our current reality and imposed unique constrictions this year.
“The University remains committed ultimately to bringing UMFA salaries more in line with salaries at peer universities.”
In an open letter to students posted to the UMFA website Monday, Shaw said the vote doesn’t necessarily mean faculty will strike.
“We know you don’t want us to go on strike. We don’t want to go on strike either, which is why we offered binding interest based arbitration over two weeks ago,” he said.
“If the Administration agrees to binding arbitration, there will be no strike. It’s up to them.”
The faculty association is the certified bargaining agent for 1,240 full-time professors, librarians, lecturers and instructors at the University of Manitoba.
— With files from The Canadian Press
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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