FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 11, 2020
PARTNERSHIP TO DEFEND PUBLIC SERVICES WINS COURT CASE
Court upholds right to collective bargaining, strikes down Public Services Sustainability Act
Manitoba’s labour movement has won an important victory for workers and their Charter-protected right to collective bargaining, Manitoba Federation of Labour president Kevin Rebeck announced today on behalf of the Partnership to Defend Public Services (PDPS).
“Today’s ruling clearly shows that the Pallister government’s heavy-handed law violates the right to collective bargaining for 120,000 Manitobans who work in the public sector,” said Rebeck.
Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice McKelvey ruled that the Pallister government’s Public Services Sustainability Act and its actions to impede collective bargaining in the province are a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and workers’ right to collective bargaining. Today’s ruling confirms that the Public Services Sustainability Act is unconstitutional.
“We said all along that this government was violating the rights of workers, and that Manitoba should allow the tried and tested process of collective bargaining to take place in the public sector,” added Rebeck. “Now, workers and employers can get back to the bargaining table when it becomes safe to do so without the threat of this unconstitutional legislation hanging over their heads.”
Rebeck added that he was glad to see the ruling so strongly struck down the government’s law and rejected its legal arguments, cautioning that the Pallister government needs to stop interfering with collective bargaining in the public sector with further unconstitutional legislation. He noted that workers throughout the public sector have been working under expired contracts for years, and are now facing the additional challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I want to thank Manitoba’s labour movement and our great legal team for this substantial victory for working people,” said Rebeck. “Manitoba’s unions will always be there to fight for workers’ rights on the job, and this legal victory represents another step in the pursuit of workplace justice.“
As was agreed at the beginning of the trial, the court will now set further dates to determine what financial and other remedies will be payable to the union plaintiffs by the government, including compensation for legal costs.
– 30 –
*The electronic file of the court decision is too large for email, but can be provided in several smaller files upon request.
The Partnership to Defend Public Services represents more than 110,000 workers who are members of: AESES, CUPE, General Teamsters Local 979, IBEW 2034, IBEW 2085, IBEW 435, Operating Engineers of Manitoba Local 987, LALA, MAHCP, MGEU, MNU, MTS, PIPSC, UA Local 254, PSAC, UFCW 832, UMFA, UNIFOR, USW 7106, USW 7975, USW 8223, USW 9074, UWFA, WAPSO IFPTE Local 162, BUFA, IATSE Local 63, UBC Local 1515, PCAM, and the MFL.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Winnipeg, MB, April 30, 2020
MOFA demands accountability, investment in PSE
Rally called for May 1, 12pm – MB Legislature
Demand for public education has increased because of the pandemic’s effects on the economy, with faculty members reporting summer enrollments that appear to be higher than in years past.
In a time of fiscal crisis we need investments, not cuts, to public services to ensure we come out of this recession with a head start on recovery.
“Post-Secondary Education is one of Manitoba’s most important economic drivers, and in times like these demand for education increases”, said MOFA President Scott Forbes. “After decades of underfunding, Mr. Pallister's cuts will make things worse, and at the worst possible time. We should be moving in the opposite direction, so that we can prepare our students for the new, post-pandemic economy.”
Many academics, union representatives, and business leaders in the province have come out against the cuts, announced by the government over two weeks ago.
The media has also reported that experts who created the economic data cited by the government disagree with the government’s statements about the data.
Even more shockingly, the government rejected proposals from the University of Manitoba that would potentially avoid salary cuts and lay-offs yet still meet the government’s financial goals. The University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) confirms this.
In response to this swell of opposition, the government of Manitoba must:
In support of these demands, MOFA members – professors, instructors, lecturers, librarians, and archivists – will join a honk-a-thon rally organized by Communities Not Cuts at the Legislature on Friday, May 1 at noon.
For more information contact:
Vice President, MOFA
Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations (MOFA) statement on the proposed cuts to Manitoba’s public universities
April 20, 2020
On Thursday April 16, 2020, the Provincial government of Brian Pallister directed the public universities to prepare budgets for the 2020/21 fiscal year with cuts to salaries of 10%, 20% and even 30%, to be submitted by Tuesday April 21, 2020. Universities had five days to plan the demolition of institutions that took many decades to build. This is part of Mr. Pallister’s broader policy of reducing the cost of the public sector, a Conservative agenda even prior to the COVID-19 crisis.
We recognize the severity and urgency of this situation and are readily awaiting the opportunity to apply our expertise to find a workable, economic solution. However, we reject Mr. Pallister’s decision to expand austerity during this economic crisis. It is out of step with what is going on in most provinces, indeed across most of the western world, and with recommendations of economists about how to survive a recession.
Those worst affected in the short-term by Mr. Pallister’s decision will be Manitoba’s youth. The job market for 15 to 24 year olds has dried up during the pandemic, and federal aid for Canadians facing financial ruin, while doing enormous good, left out students. A later federal plan to cover 100% of wages for student jobs only works if there are jobs waiting: there are not.
Historically, university enrolments grow during hard times as young people and others displaced from work train and prepare for jobs that will emerge as the economy recovers, sooner rather than later under prudent leadership. Yet at this time when universities are most needed by Manitobans, during an unprecedented economic storm, Mr. Pallister chooses to dismantle the storm shelters, our universities.
Moreover, the proposed levels of cuts will inflict permanent structural damage on our public universities, undermining their capacity to educate and conduct research for decades to come. The provincial government has expressed its desire to impose the maximum 30% cut. At that level, neither Brandon University or the University of Winnipeg can survive as full-fledged universities. The status of Université de Saint Boniface is less clear. The University of Manitoba might survive, but it’s already cut its faculty budgets year after year, and even more budget cuts will make it a shell of its former self. Even a 10% cut will be similarly devastating. This is an attack on public education.
We therefore reject Mr. Pallister’s agenda of cutting expenditures on such essential services during these perilous times: Mr. Pallister himself admitted that cuts to the public sector would cover only a dime of every dollar of deficit financing needed to see Manitoba through the crisis. That level of saving is not worth gutting institutions that are an essential part of the economy and social fabric of Manitoba.
A much better solution is to start reversing the cuts to Post-Secondary Education ushered in since the 1990s. As one University of Manitoba Professor has shown, every dollar in reduction to the deficit could reduce GDP by $1.70 – which means the government’s plans could unnecessarily cost Manitoba’s economy over $200 million. As in Quebec and Ontario, he argues that a better solution is to “break the vicious cycle of reduced spending and income by leaning into the wind and spending more in times of crisis.”
Instead of imposing Draconian and short-sighted measures to solve an immediate problem at greater long-term cost, we urge Mr. Pallister and Minister Eichler to invest in Post-Secondary Education, a solution that will protect our institutions, economy, and the future of our youth.
President: Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations
Phone: 204 889-8809
Prof. Shiu-Yik Au: “Austerity is the wrong path for Manitoba during coronavirus pandemic: U of M professor”.
UMSU and UMFA: Post-Secondary Education is an essential service
UMSU and UMFA proudly stand in unison declaring post-secondary education an essential service. We reject in the strongest terms the recent decision to consider up to a 30% cut to post-secondary funding in Manitoba, and jointly call for the federal government to resist overtures that will shift public sector salaries from Manitoba provincial payrolls to the federal government.
Instead, we call on the federal government to support post-secondary education directly through targeted funding to universities.
We call on the provincial government to follow the lead of other provinces to fund front line workers in the COVID-19 crisis AND support other workers in the public sector. The Province of Manitoba should also follow the federal government’s example and provide students with assistance rather than eroding the quality and availability of post-secondary education.
Said UMSU President Jakob Sanderson, “This government, unlike the thousands of struggling Manitobans it’s elected to represent, will not starve. It will not go bankrupt. Instead of handwringing over the deficit it should be prioritizing investments in people.”
Added the president of UMFA and accounting professor Janet Morrill, “Government deficit spending -not tax cuts -can dramatically boost economic growth particularly during a recession/depression. In contrast, the impact of the current plan of public sector cuts is estimated to COST billions in the long run due to the drop in provincial GDP, tax revenue and labour income.”
Students and the citizens of Manitoba will need their post-secondary educational institutions to be prepared for them this fall more than ever. That education needs to be affordable, accessible, and of high quality.
For media inquiries please contact:
This is a brief update on matters relating to the closure of campus and changes to the Winter and summer semester, and of specific interest to probationary (tenure track) members.
UMFA and UM administration have arrived at an agreement on the important issue of the effect of COVID-19 on members holding tenure track appointments, particularly those whose tenure applications are due July 15, 2020.
If you intended to apply for tenure in 2020 and still wish to do so, you may. It will be treated as an early tenure application as described in Section 19.C.4.4.1 in the UMFA collective agreement available here:
We are still in discussion with the administration regarding other important matters related to COVID-19, such as:
We have requested a meeting with administration to discuss these important matters, and are awaiting a reply.
Janet Morrill, UMFA President
You have likely read the news detailing the Pallister government proposals to impose wage cuts on the public sector, with an example of two day work weeks from April to September. You have also seen the messages from President Barnard which provide little detail of how, or what, those cuts will mean to UMFA and other members of the UM workforce.
Leaders of the campus unions met with members of administration on Friday. We were informed that the government asked the administration to find ways to reduce approximately 10% of the UM’s full annual budgeted payroll, through savings in wages and other discretionary expenditures. The amount will likely be held back from its current year operating grant, and the plan must be approved by the government. Details of the plan are due tomorrow.
There are many failures in the government approach. The first is that in times like this, austerity is a disastrous measure. I encourage you to read the editorial below by Shiu-Yik Au, one of our members in the department of Accounting and Finance. He argues that like the governments of Ontario and Quebec, Manitoba should be spending rather than cutting:
Secondly, the government’s approach is the latest in a string of measures that violate the autonomy of the university, and hence the academic freedom and ability of the university to fulfill its mission. If the goal is to divert money from our operating grant to other public sector priorities, the university would be able to find far better ways to accomplish this with less harm to the institution that choosing amongst the measures that the government is requiring.
What are those measures? The administration has committed to working within collective agreements. The measures that affect UMFA members will be not filling vacancies whose funding was included in the current year operating budget. Many units have reported that searches that were ongoing have been terminated. We do not know if offers that were made and accepted have been rescinded. We hope not. The administration is also requesting UMFA allow the administration to offer the vacation purchase program to its members, as is currently available to other employees. UMFA did not agree to the program when it was adopted by the other unions as there were many complications that impact the terms and conditions negotiated into our Collective Agreement. These include, but are not limited to, maximum untenured periods, length of probationary periods for librarians and instructors, and eligibility for maternity and parental leave. We are open to discussions with the administration, however, and have communicated that to them.
This is related to the third fatal shortcoming in the government approach. While they want the measures to be based on consultation between unions and management, a seven day timeline to arrive at such plans is clearly impossible and cannot lead to good decisions, or even the best decisions that can be made given exigent circumstances.
We’ve received many comments from many Members, each concerned with the future of the university and the workers that make the UM what it is. In many ways this is a province-wide discussion on the future of Post-Secondary Education, and we’re working with the CAUT and through the Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations (MOFA) to get our message across. Each of us has a role: everyone is represented by an MLA, a Premier, and a Cabinet. I strongly encourage each of you to exercise your academic freedom and contact the Premier, the Minister of Economic Development and Training, and your local MLA to let them know how you feel about what the government is proposing. Contact information is below.
The Executive Council has been meeting over the weekend to work through these issues, and the Board of Representatives is meeting tomorrow afternoon. We will keep you informed of developments.
Janet Morrill, UMFA President
Premier Brian Pallister
Phone – 204-945-3714
204 Legislative Building
Winnipeg, MB R3C 0V8
Unit 143-99 Scurfield Blvd.
Winnipeg, MB R3Y 1Y1
Phone: (204) 489-0828
Ralph Eichler, Minister of Economic Development and Training
Room 358 Legislative Building
Winnipeg, MB R3C 0V8
Phone: (204) 945-0067
Box 1845, 319 Main Street
Stonewall, MB R0C 2Z0
Phone: (204) 467-9482
Fax: (204) 467-7580
List of MLAs with contact information:
Wab Kinew, Leader of the Official Opposition (NDP)
Room 172 Legislative Building
Winnipeg, MB R3C 0V8
Phone: (204) 945-3284
105-11 Evergreen Pl, Winnipeg, R3L 2T9
Dougald Lamont, Leader of the Liberal Party of Manitoba
Room 169 Legislative Building
Winnipeg, MB R3C 0V8
Phone: (204) 945-6276
118 Marion Street
Winnipeg, MB R2H 0T1
Phone: (204) 792-8806
I’m following up on my message from yesterday, in which I briefly addressed the Government’s directive that public sector employers develop plans to reduce labour costs. We’ve received a lot of messages since then – thank you!
Your employment at the UM is governed by the Collective Agreement, the current iteration of which expires in the spring of 2021. Our Agreement includes protections against salary reductions, reduction of duties, and lay-offs. Laying-off Members for financial reasons is particularly difficult, as the administration must invoke Article 28 of the CA (which comprises some 15 pages of rules and timelines), and it can only be applied when the University is in financial crisis. The University is in no such crisis, and the administration is not free to simply alter terms and conditions of employment that have been enshrined in collective agreements.
We will protect these Collective Agreement rights in response to any proposal the administration might make in response to the Provincial Government’s directive.
The Executive will soon be calling a meeting of UMFA’s Board of Representatives, with the hopes it can take place early next week. To inform our discussion at that meeting contact your Reps with questions and comments. Your reps are listed here: http://umfa.ca/images/pdfs/UMFA_BoR_2019-2020.pdf
To all members:
The provincial government announced today that they are proposing a shortened work week for public sector workers who are not on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. See:
The provincial government proposes that over the next four months, public sector workers have their work week reduced to two days per week, and collect employment insurance for other three days.
Our information comes from a webinar held this afternoon by the provincial government for Manitoba Federation of Labour members. University of Manitoba is an “ORE”, short for other reporting entity, and as such is included in this directive.
However, we do not yet know how the directives will apply to post-secondary institutions as the provincial operating grant accounts for only fifty-two percent of our general revenues, and a reduction in our work week would presumably reduce tuition revenues. We also do not yet know how, or whether, UMFA members will be affected. We will keep you informed once we receive details from UM administration.
Needless to say, these are turbulent times. I hope all of you, and your families and loved ones, are safe and healthy.
The pace required to adapt to changing circumstances is unprecedented — many of you are having to find alternate means to deliver our courses, labs, and myriad other forms of instruction with only a few days’ notice. While many are being pressured to put their lectures online, it’s important to note what was expressed in Senate by the Provost on Monday: the changes you make should be done using your best professional judgement. Otherwise put, you have the academic freedom to modify your instruction as necessary. Read more
Letters to Administration:
For updates from the Administration, follow this link: http://umanitoba.ca/coronavirus