UMFA calls on University of Manitoba administration to prioritize student, faculty, and staff safety
Administration must consult with UMFA
December 17, 2021
Winnipeg - The University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) calls on the University of Manitoba administration to proactively protect students, faculty, and staff from rising COVID-19 cases. Across Canada, universities are quickly moving exams and classes online as the Omicron variant is spreading. With plans to return to campus in-person in the new year, the UofM administration has not provided students or UMFA members with any indication of how increasing COVID-19 cases are affecting these plans, and whether virtual learning will continue.
“The university administration has an obligation to provide a safe learning environment for students, and a safe working environment for faculty and staff. The administration should be consulting with UMFA to develop a plan for winter term, as COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing and the Omicron variant is spreading” said Orvie Dingwall, UMFA President. “Students have experienced so much uncertainty and disruption over the last 20 months, the university administration should be proactive with its response to this fourth wave of COVID-19. Students need certainty in what the next term will look like, and our members need ample time for teaching preparations.”
The call from UMFA comes as the administration has repeatedly canceled meetings relating to handling of COVID-19 on campus. The administration is obligated to consult and work with faculty on these matters. UMFA fears that decisions about returning to in-person classes in January are being made unilaterally, and without proper input from faculty, which could worsen the educational experience for students.
“As other universities have moved online in the face of the Omicron variant, we’re asking the administration to involve us in the university’s collegial processes,” said Dingwall. “After the strike ended, University President Benarroch spoke about the need to work better with faculty. This is his opportunity to strike a new tone that will incorporate faculty perspectives into what a safe and effective winter term looks like”.
The University of Manitoba Faculty Association represents over 1,200 professors, instructors and librarians at the University of Manitoba.
University of Manitoba Faculty Association ratifies agreement, defies government mandate.
Classes resume Tuesday morning
December 7, 2021
Winnipeg - The University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) has ratified the tentative agreement, ending its 35 day strike, with students and faculty returning to class on Tuesday morning. The agreement comes after UMFA members worked together with students and community supporters to improve recruitment and retention at the University.
“Our members were on strike to improve working conditions for faculty and learning conditions for students,” said Orvie Dingwall, UMFA President. “This agreement will improve equity for the lowest paid and most precarious UMFA members, while also ensuring that we can recruit and retain professors, instructors, and librarians at the University of Manitoba.”
The agreement enhances working conditions for UMFA members by improving maternity and parental leave benefits, and establishes a Family Resources Position to assist UM community members in finding childcare. Compensation will be determined through binding arbitration, which will ignore government mandates and be guided by a “reasonable advancement toward” the 25th percentile when compared to Canada’s top 15 research universities.
“We should have only been bargaining with our employer, but we were also bargaining with the provincial government, who interfered with our negotiations,” said Dingwall. “We defended the university’s independence from the government, and thank everyone who joined us in our efforts to end government interference at the University of Manitoba.”
The final results of the ratification vote were 881 members in favour, 88 opposed with 969 out of 1,264 members voting. UMFA represents over 1,200 professors, instructors and librarians at the University of Manitoba.
November 9, 2021
Honorable Audrey Gordon
Minister of Health and Seniors Care
Minister of Mental Health, Wellness & Recovery Legislative Assembly of Manitoba
Dear Minister Gordon,
We are writing to you, as nurse educators responsible for educating the thousands of nurses on the
front lines, in community and mental health agencies, public health and senior health care
administration. As members of the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) at the
University of Manitoba, we have joined the strike asking for non-interference of the provincial
government in the bargaining process and fair compensation for our essential work.
The UMFA strike affects all workforce sectors, in particular, the health care sector. The College
of Nursing's 54 faculty members educate the largest number of nursing students in the province,
with an intake of 120 students twice a year to a 4-year program. Each year, over 200 graduate
nurses from the University of Manitoba enter the health care system with the competencies to
provide high quality nursing care to Manitobans. This strike, if prolonged, will delay the
graduation of approximately 110 nursing students in Spring 2022, adding more strain to the severe
nursing shortage that exists in Manitoba.
We are aware of several faculty members at the College of Nursing who are planning to retire early
or leave the university to accept positions in institutions offering better salaries. In the past
two years, 15% of our faculty have retired or left the College. Nursing instructors and assistant
professors earn salaries that are less than general duty nurses. Faculty on the picket lines are
walking not only to improve their salary but, more importantly, to create a salary scale that will
attract new faculty and retain current faculty who can step up to the challenge of preparing nurses
for a health care system in crisis due to the nursing shortage, a pandemic, and increasing
interpersonal violence and moral distress on the frontline.
This summer, the provincial government called on the College of Nursing to expand its enrolment by
an additional 120 students as a strategy to address the growing nursing shortage in Manitoba. This
program expansion can only be delivered if the College of Nursing can recruit qualified new faculty
and retain experienced faculty who are fairly compensated for their work.
We ask you as Minister of Health and Seniors Care to confer with Premier Stefanson, Minister Ewasko
(Advanced Education, Skills and Immigration), and Minster Fielding (Finance) of the Legislative
Assembly of Manitoba to seek a timely resolution to the bargaining issues between UMFA and the
University of Manitoba in the spirit of fairness and non-interference from government.
Katie de Leon RN, MN Instructor II
Lynda Balneaves, RN, PhD Associate Professor
Jennifer Dunsford, RN, MN, MPA Instructor II
Donalda Wotton, RN, MN Instructor II
Darlene Pierce, DNP, RN, NP Instructor II
Lisa Timmerman, RN, MN Instructor II
Barb Goodwin, RN, BA, MN Instructor II
Josie Bolianatz, RN, MN Instructor II
Francine Laurencelle, RN, MEd, DHA Senior Instructor
Vanessa Van Bewer, RN, PhD Assistant Professor
Jamie Penner, RN, PhD(c) Assistant Professor
Barbara Tallman, RN, PhD Instructor II
Angela Thable, RN (NP), MN Instructor II
Chen Jin, RN, MN Instructor II
Danielle Yaffe, RN, MN Instructor II
Barbara Rose-Lovett, RN, MN Instructor II
Lisa Banman, RN, MN Instructor II
Vladan Protudjer, RN, BN, MMEd Instructor II
Marnie Kramer, RN, PhD Assistant Professor
Em Pijl, RN, PhD Assistant Professor
Michelle Lobchuk, RN, PhD Associate Professor
Vanessa Bailon, RN, BN, Nurse Practitioner Student, Co-Chair Graduate Nursing Student Association (GNSA)
Gillian Laninga, Senior Stick, Nursing Student Association (NSA)
Gieselle Ortilla, Vice Stick, Nursing Student Association (NSA)
Genevieve Thompson, RN, PhD, CHPCN(c) Associate Professor
Kimberly Workum, RN, BScN, MEd Senior Instructor
Sonia Udod, RN, PhD Assistant Professor
Winnifred Briscoe RN, MN Instructor II
Lori Sookram RN MSN Instructor II
Annette Schultz, RN, PhD Professor
Kimberley MacKay, RN (RN), MN Instructor II
Sufia Turner, RN, MN, CCSNE Instructor II
Linda Townsend, RN, MN Instructor II
Rhonda Dube, RN, MN Instructor II
Christa DeGagne RN, BN, MEd Instructor l
Noah Gatzke, RN (NP), MN Instructor II
Christina West, RN, PhD Associate Professor
Susan Wintoniw, RM, RN, MN Instructor II
Ashley Markowsky, RN (NP), MN Instructor II
Daniel A. Nagel, RN, PhD Assistant Professor
Open Letter to Students
Dear UM students,
We know you are worried about the strike. It’s a disruption for you, and has created difficulty and confusion for many of you. This makes us truly grateful for all the amazing support we’ve received from student groups, as well as individual students. Every student who has attended a rally, walked on a picket line, or shared some of the amazing memes on social media, has had a huge impact on our efforts, and we want you to know that we are truly grateful for your contributions to UMFA members. Getting back on track after this will be hard work, but we will do it together.
We didn’t want to go on strike. We felt that this was the only option available for us to stand up for ourselves and insist that we be treated fairly by our employer.
As part of the process of bargaining a new contract, UMFA’s professors, instructors, and librarians, voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if necessary. Why? Because of how concerned we are about issues covered by our contract that are negatively affecting our university. We are trying to solve these issues by:
We believe that achieving these goals for UMFA members will also be good for students – because when we have good teaching and research conditions, you have good learning conditions.
We were forced to strike because the UM administration, our employer, didn’t make an acceptable contract offer, largely because of continued interference by the provincial government. The government was not solely responsible for the original unacceptable offer – we doubt the government has strong opinions on whether or not an individual faculty member teaches online, or if instructors in nursing, education, dentistry, engineering, and other faculties burn out from teaching all year, every year.
Now the administration says it’s willing to have the unresolved issues settled by an arbitrator, which would end the strike. UMFA is open to arbitration, though we need to make sure that the arbitration process wouldn’t be stacked against us, which it would be unless the administration agrees to a number of conditions, including settling non-monetary items through negotiations. Arbitration is an acceptable way to settle our differences on compensation, but not on terms of our contract that influence our working conditions.
The university’s administration is able to send their communications to all students. For UMFA’s perspective, you can find us on Twitter @UMFA_FAUM, Instagram @umfa_faum, and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/UofMFacultyAssociation.
Students have significant influence when you act in large numbers! If you’d like to help the strike end with a fair deal for UMFA members, there are things you can do. Please:
Since we don’t have the ability to email all UM students the way the administration does, we would appreciate it if you’d share this message with other students.
UMFA’s Executive Council
Recently, UM administration denied all of UMFA’s detailed requests, issued in Spring 2021, for COVID-19 pandemic related relief, supports, and protections for you. In support of these requests, many of you clearly identified your needs and challenges in open letters to UM administration. According to administration, the hardships of the pandemic were short-lived and have already been sufficiently and comprehensively addressed, for example, by the one-year extension to tenure and promotion timelines that was granted near the outset of the pandemic.
Downplaying the impact of the pandemic has regrettably occurred in other recent interactions with UM administration. Over the past six weeks, a group of UMFA representatives have met on five occasions with senior UM administration to discuss the administration's current COVID-19 pandemic response and the 100% re-opening plan they have in place for January 2022.
What We’ve Been Advocating
Your UMFA representatives have repeatedly conveyed the numerous and growing concerns you are bringing to our attention, including the following:
We have asked for concrete remedies to these, among other concerns. Thus far, we have been successful only in securing a meeting with representatives from Physical Plant in which it was verified that very few COVID-19-specific measures have been implemented regarding campus HVAC systems. We have learned that among the very limited COVID-19-specific steps taken, these largely depended on summer weather and the ability to maximize fresh air intake, which is now severely reduced with the onset of colder weather.
Questions About Air Quality, L.A.S.H. Committees
Representatives from Physical Plant also described that air quality (not air exchange) tests are being conducted only in selected older buildings, which means no information is available for many of the spaces in which you work. We have insisted that Local Area Safety and Health (LASH) committees should be meeting and trained on COVID-19-specific issues, and that the University-wide Safety and Health Committee (called OSHAC) should do the same, since these groups have not been meeting over the course of the pandemic. UMFA Representatives will be meeting with the University’s Environment Health and Safety Office next week to press this issue further.
UMFA recognizes the urgency of the situation and will continue to advocate for your safety, health, and well-being, and by extension, for a safe return to campus for all. In the meantime, please share your immediate concerns related to the UM’s COVID-19 response, and your concerns related to the current January 2022 plan with a re-opening target of 100% by participating in an UMFA-organized focus group.
Participate in an UMFA Focus Group!