University of Manitoba strike ends, students return to class Tuesday

Classes are back on at the University of Manitoba Tuesday after striking faculty voted to accept a deal with the university to end a five-week-long strike. 

The University of Manitoba Faculty Association, which represents over 1,200 professors, instructors and librarians at the Winnipeg-based university, went on strike Nov. 2, saying higher salaries are needed to alleviate retention and recruitment problems at the school. 

The union reached a tentative deal with university officials late Sunday night, and members voted on it the following evening.

When the votes were tallied, 881 members voted in favour and 88 were opposed, with 969 out of the union’s 1,264 members casting a ballot, a news release from the faculty association says. 

At 35 days, this was the longest strike in the union’s history. 

Compensation will be determined through binding arbitration but the two parties reached an agreement on other key issues, UMFA president Orvie Dingwall said. 

“We’re grateful to be going to arbitration, but it certainly should not be a necessity to have to go to arbitration when we should be able to bargain these things directly with our employer,” she said. 

Improved maternity and parental leave benefits and who determines whether classes are taught online or in person are among the issues the two parties resolved without arbitration, Dingwall said.

Though most of the compensation issues are going to an arbitrator, the two parties also agreed to changes that would ensure the lowest paid and most precariously employed UMFA members are paid fairly, she said. 

Despite the missed class time, university president Michael Bennaroch said he expects students will be able to graduate on schedule.

To make up for the lost time, the fall semester will run past the scheduled end of classes, which was Dec. 10, and the winter semester will run later into April, he said. 

Bennaroch said he’s grateful university officials and UMFA reached an agreement when they did. 

“Every day matters right now in terms of finishing the term and getting the winter term started,” he said. 

Students should check their email for more detailed information, Bennaroch said.

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