President's Message: What is the Gender Solidarity Working Group?

May 6, 2019

The newly formed Gender Solidarity Working Group continues its work.  You may wonder why we refer to “gender solidarity” rather than just the prevention of sexual assault and harassment.  Our reasoning is that the working group has a mandate beyond the very important work of addressing sexual assault and harassment on campus: we see that the solutions to these problems require more than merely commenting on administration’s proposed policy and procedures.

To make this campus a safe and inclusive place to work and study, we need to create a culture of standing together to support each other.  Effective collective agreements, policies, and procedures are necessary to achieve this, but they aren’t enough.  Most of our members never end up filing formal grievances, but many nevertheless have experiences in their daily interactions that have far-ranging consequences that can include their career progression, their mental health, their feelings about their colleagues, or their enjoyment at work.

Promoting a cultural shift is a formidable task that will require a range of activities to help us understand each other, identify barriers to gender solidarity, and ways to create it.  One of the first things we need to do is let you know that they’re not alone and that we’re here to help. The Collective Agreement provides certain protections which we can help you access – please, get in touch even if you just want to ask questions. What you say to an Association rep will be kept confidential. Please also have a look at the document linked below, which outlines some of your rights and some of the ways we can help you if you’ve suffered or are suffering discrimination, harassment, or assault.

We also need to continue to let the administration know this issue is important to us all, and that their approach to these issues has to change. Recently we assembled our professional staff, grievance officers and the Gender Solidarity Working Group to compile feedback on the UM’s Respectful Workplace and Learning Environment and Sexual Assault Policies and Procedures.  While those drafts contain some important steps forward in regard to providing support for survivors of sexual violence on campus, we think the administration needs to go further and fully fund an arm’s length crisis centre on campus. Our understanding is that the University’s Board of Governors will be considering a revised set of policies at its meeting on June 25, and it must be considered by the Senate before then. Before that time comes, we’ll be reaching out for your support.

In solidarity,

Janet Morrill
UMFA President

For more information, click this link: Know your CA: Discrimination, Sexual Assault, and Harassment

Gender Solidarity Working Group mandate (click link or image below)
Gender Solidarity Working Group Mandate October 2018 1

Letter to UM Administration: UMFA's comments re: draft RWLE (click link or image below)
To D SMith UMFA Comments re draft RWLE SA DC April 2 2019 1


President's Message: Gender solidarity at the University of Manitoba

We have all seen messages from David Barnard and the Administration over the last few months regarding their distress at the instances of sexual assault and harassment at the UM and their resolve to root out this behaviour, protect members of the UM community, and discipline the offenders.

It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe workplace for their employees and, in the case of a university, its students. It is the responsibility of a faculty association to ensure that the employer meets its responsibilities to Members, and that Members subject to investigation or discipline are accorded due process.

If you have experienced harassment or sexual violence, our job is to ensure that the employer does their job – treats your complaint seriously, ensures you are safe andget access to the resources you need, and follows appropriate protocols. Members accused of sexual violence or harassment should contact the UMFA office immediately to ensure that the administration acts in accordance with law and the collective agreement.

Nevertheless, there is room for improvement of the administration’s actions and UMFA’s interventions. Late last fall the Board of Representatives formed a Gender Solidarity Working Group to contribute to defending and promoting working relations across genders.  That group includes representation from the UMFA executive, our professional staff, our grievance officers, our diversity and equity committee, and the Board Representatives.

One of the first, and most important, tasks of this group will be to hold gatherings in the coming months to hear survivors’ concerns and suggestions about preventing sexual harassment and assault on campus.  The results of these gatherings, in tandem with solicited additional confidential/anonymous feedback, will be used to inform UMFA policy about how Members are supported, and inform demands made to the administration.

Based on that information, as well as UMFA’s past experiences, the working group will:

  • identify deficiencies in and alternatives to the current UM Respectful Work and Learning Environment and Sexual Assault Policies and Procedures;
  • In preparation for collective bargaining, identify deficiencies in and recommend improvements to the Collective Agreement related to issues of sexual harassment and violence and report them to the Collective Agreement Committee for inclusion in our forthcoming bargaining proposals and communications;
  • identify possible improvements to CAUT policies in regard to safety and health, harassment, and sexual harassment; and
  • identify deficiencies in and recommend improvements to UMFA’s Bylaws and Standing Rules in regard to sexual harassment and sexual assault, including recommendations regarding gender composition for grievance officer selection procedures and complainant choice in grievances involving sexual harassment or sexual violence.

We will be in touch about the best way to meet with those who’d like to share their experience and knowledge. Please don’t hesitate to contact me or the UMFA office if you need help or have any suggestions for us.

Best wishes for the rest of the term.

Janet Morrill
UMFA President