Government of Manitoba to pay $19.3 Million for violating Charter rights of UMFA members in 2016 collective bargaining
Government interference led to 2016 strike, remedy will address lost wages for UMFA members and costs of the strike
Winnipeg - The Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench has ordered the government of Manitoba to pay $19.3 Million in damages to the members of the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA). The damages were awarded as compensation for the government’s interference and the violation of UMFA members’ right to free association, which instigated the 21-day strike in 2016.
“This ruling is a bittersweet victory for UMFA’s members, after having been negatively affected by the Conservative government’s interference in collective bargaining, and draconian wage-freeze legislation,” said UMFA President Orvie Dingwall. “The Government’s actions were harmful to UMFA members and students at the University of Manitoba. The Stefanson government should recognize the costs of their continued interference and must use this opportunity to change their course and respect the independence of Manitoba’s universities, and workers’ rights in collective bargaining.”
In her decision, Justice McKelvey noted that “The cause of the strike was Manitoba's late mandate during the negotiations and instructions to UM not to reveal [the government’s] involvement.” She went on to state that the government’s “conduct significantly disrupted the balance between UM and UMFA along with their relationship, as well as causing significant discord between UMFA and its membership. There was a serious and substantial undermining and interference with what had been a meaningful and productive process of collective bargaining.”
The ruling requires the Government of Manitoba to pay UMFA a total of $19.3 Million plus interest violating their freedom of association. Of that, over $16 Million will be distributed to members for lost wages. Additionally, almost $3 Million will be provided to UMFA to cover the costs of the 2016 strike.
The ruling is also a victory for collective bargaining in Manitoba. Thousands of public sector workers have faced legislated wage restraint. Despite repealing Bill 28, the government continues its efforts to mandate wages for public sector workers.
"UMFA members work hard to ensure students receive a high-quality post-secondary education," said Kevin Rebeck, president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour on behalf of the Partnership to Defend Public Services. "Today's decision makes it clear that governments will face consequences when they trample on the Charter rights of workers. I encourage the Stefanson government to get out of the way of collective bargaining in the public sector and let the thousands of Manitobans working under expired contracts settle fair deals with their employers."
UMFA represents over 1,200 professors, instructors and librarians at the University of Manitoba.