Mediator scolds University of Manitoba Faculty Association for rejecting arbitration to end strike

A mediator has slammed the striking University of Manitoba Faculty Association for refusing to accept binding arbitration in its labour dispute with the university, saying there is no further value in mediation.

Arne Peltz recommends arbitration since “there is no likelihood that the parties will reach a settlement of outstanding differences without a protracted continuing strike.”

In his final recommendation, which was released to media by the U of M Friday, Peltz says the university has accepted his recommendation. The faculty association has not, despite nearly four weeks of mediation.

“The parties remain far apart. I therefore reiterate my recommendation that all outstanding differences be referred to binding interest arbitration,” he said.

Interest arbitration can be especially useful where there are innocent third parties seriously impacted by a strike, as students are in the U of M strike.

Many of their classes have been put on hold since the faculty association, which represents over 1,200 professors, instructors and librarians at the Winnipeg-based university, went on strike Nov. 2.

Peltz says in this case, monetary and operational issues are still outstanding.

He drafted a customized arbitration referral that he believes is fair to both parties.

Return to work agreement recommended

It recommends a sole arbitrator be mutually appointed by both parties, with one appointed by the chair of the Manitoba Labour Board if they can’t reach an agreement.

If the referral is accepted, UMFA and the U of M would conclude a return to work agreement as quickly as possible, with UMFA ending the strike.

UMFA and the U of M are encouraged to continue to negotiate while waiting for the arbitration hearing, which could prompt a settlement before the hearing, Peltz’s recommendation says.

The referral also addresses the faculty association’s complaint that the U of M has the second-lowest average salary among the the U15 — a collective of 15 of Canada’s most research-intensive universities. 

Under Peltz’s recommendation, the arbitrator would “consider the parties’ mutual aim to achieve reasonable advancement in the U15 … standings toward the 25th percentile” over the duration of the collective agreement.

The faculty association has also accused the province of interfering in the collective bargaining process.

To address that, Peltz’s recommendation says “government-issued mandates will not be considered by the arbitrator, but governance proposals will be considered so long as they aim to achieve a fair and reasonable result.”

Peltz urged the faculty association to reconsider binding arbitration. 

“There is no need for this strike to continue. If it does, this will not be because of a restrictive government mandate or employer intransigence,” he said in his recommendation.

“Like the University [of Manitoba], UMFA should be willing to subject all its proposals to scrutiny before an independent arbitrator and to live with the result.”

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