University scrambles to plan response in event of long-term strike

Administration hopeful agreement will be reached before fall term scrapped

UMFA Strike. Photo by Megan Colwell

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More than a week into a faculty strike that has cancelled hundreds of classes at the U of M, university administration has not shared with students its plans in the event the strike persists into a protracted dispute.

U of M director of public affairs John Danakas said the university is hopeful that the ongoing conciliation process between the administration and the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) will achieve an agreement and end the strike.

Danakas said in an email that “right now the university is focusing on the immediate needs and concerns of students.”

Conciliation between the university and UMFA began Nov. 2 with a conciliator appointed by the province.

The immediate priority for the university is reaching an agreement as soon as possible, Danakas said.

“At the same time, attention is being paid to all potential scenarios, and these will be addressed as necessary,” he said.

He declined to go into further detail.

In an email to students last week, vice-provost Susan Gottheil said “your successful completion of this academic term is our top priority.”

The letter notes midterm tests for uninterrupted classes not instructed by UMFA members may resume as scheduled and students should contact the course instructor for information.

Midterm tests for classes that resume after the strike is resolved will not be held the first day back, according to a post on the U of M’s official Facebook page.

“An appropriate schedule to make up for lost time in courses will be determined once they appear on the list of courses being offered, or at the end of the strike,” said Gottheil in the email. “Please check the official list of continuing classes often as it will be updated regularly.”

“We know that many of you have other questions that we haven’t yet answered – for example, the voluntary withdrawal deadline and the impact of the strike on the final examination schedule, as well as how much notice you will have before returning to class once an agreement between the university and UMFA has been reached,” she said.

“We are doing our best to answer these important questions, and will pass on that information as soon as we can.”

The email also confirms that the university will be closed for holidays from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2.

Danakas said that a decision on how long the strike must run in order for the fall term to be lost is one for the senate and reiterated that the university will continue to try to reach an agreement with UMFA.

The U of M strike info website states that the university anticipates successfully completing the academic year and has “no intention of ‘writing off the year’ because of labour disruption.”

“In the worst-case scenario, the commencement of the winter term may be delayed until classes and examinations of the fall term are completed,” says the webpage.

Planning for changes in the exam period and decisions on missed classes and tuition refunds are dependent on how long the strike lasts as well as which classes are still being offered.

The website also notes that mid-term and final exams may be rescheduled when the strike ends. It is anticipated that papers already submitted for grading will be quickly returned.

Danakas said that plans developed for situations other than the strike’s end will be shared with students as needed.

UMFA began picketing Nov. 1 after mediation failed the evening of Oct. 30.