U of M pressured to follow Tory ‘order’


U of M pressured to follow Tory ‘order’

A University of Manitoba representative said he feared the province would penalize the university if it didn’t follow what he deemed a clear government demand to freeze wages last fall.

“If we did something other than what the government had mandated, we were in danger of having something happen to the university, which would be really quite damaging,” said Greg Juliano, the U of M’s associate vice-president of human resources, during a public hearing of the Manitoba Labour Board Wednesday.

The board is considering a complaint from the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) against the U of M over labour negotiations that led to a three-week strike in November.

Juliano said the government grew angry with the university after it pushed back on that goal. When asked what specific consequences the university feared from the province, Juliano noted a potential reduction of a provincial operating grant that covers about half the university’s budget.

“It was made quite clear to me that it was a directive, an order, not optional, and the government would take steps that wouldn’t be favourable to the university if we didn’t participate in this mandate,” he said.

Government could also alter tuition controls or reject millions of dollars worth of grant requests for capital projects, Juliano noted, adding the Tory government’s position remained unclear on a previous NDP government commitment to give $150 million to U of M’s Front and Centre campaign.

Juliano also said he was concerned about government interference in the labour talks, which he described as well underway before the alleged directive was made in early October. That included the university’s Sept. 13 offer of a 7% salary increase over four years to UMFA members, which the union rejected.

UMFA has argued the university’s dealings violate the Manitoba Labour Relations Act, including a failure to disclose the province’s wage-freeze suggestion. UMFA says its bargaining team didn’t know about those instructions until Oct. 27.

Juliano said that initial secrecy, however, was also demanded by the provincial government.

UMFA members, including professors, instructors and librarians went on strike from Nov. 1 to Nov. 21. Classes resumed Nov. 22 after the union and university signed a one-year agreement that did freeze wages.

The hearing is set to continue later Wednesday afternoon.

jpursaga@postmedia.com

Twitter: @pursagawpgsun 

Published at Wed, 03 May 2017 18:31:34 +0000