he University of Manitoba and the faculty association reached a new collective agreement that will see faculty member’s wages increased by 4.4 per cent over three years.
The University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) represents the interests of roughly 1,700 faculty members, comprised of professors, lecturers, instructors and librarians.
President of UMFA, Cameron Morrill, reported that in the first year wages would increase by $500. The second year would see a one per cent increase, followed by a 2.9 per cent increase in the third year.
Morrill added that the collective agreement would also address issues with faculty members’ pension plans.
He explained that with the financial markets weak, investments made for the pension plan have not fared well.
To combat this concern, faculty members agreed to contribute roughly nine per cent of their pay to the pension plan. The university will meet this with an equal contribution.
Eighty-five per cent of the faculty members voted in favour of the new contract, but less than half the eligible voters choose to cast ballots.
John Danakas, the director of public affairs for the University of Manitoba, was pleased that a new collective agreement was successfully reached.
“The successful resolution speaks to the considerable efforts and commitment shown by both the university and the faculty association,” commented Danakas.
Executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, James Turk, pointed out the importance of collective agreements to faculty members in negotiating suitable terms and conditions of work.
“[ . . . ] Before [faculty members] had collective agreements, the employer could do whatever it wanted. It could pay one person $100,000 and pay another person $5,000,” explained Turk.
“The only protection the faculty in Canada have for their academic freedom is what’s written into their collective agreement.”
Collective agreements are also vital in preventing strikes. If a collective agreement is not reached and faculty members are outside a contract, they have the right to go indefinitely on strike.
Strikes become an issue for the entire university community; the university is unable to function, students suffer missed classes and the faculty members on strike are without income.
Turk points out that 98 per cent of collective agreements are reached without the need for a strike, but occasionally strikes become necessary.
“Sometimes the faculty members have to get the attention of the administration to let them know that they are serious about their proposals. [ . . . ] That means having a strike vote [ . . . ],” remarked Turk.
Collective agreements first began in the 1970s, when faculty associations first started unionizing.
Collective agreements act as building blocks, which universities and faculty associations can utilize to address concerns, in order to progress forward.
“If in an earlier agreement they negotiated suitable language for pensions, for example, it won’t be a big issue in the next round of bargaining,” informed Turk.
Faculty associations such as UMFA conduct meetings to discover the concerns its members harbour and to decide what issues to bring forward in an upcoming round of bargaining.
They then negotiate and work with the university, on behalf of faculty members, to draw-up a proposed collective agreement.
This proposed collective agreement is then presented to faculty members and then voted upon in a ratification vote.