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Manitoba government ordered to pay $19.3 million to UMFA members in response to 2016 strike

University of Manitoba (file image) University of Manitoba (file image)
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Taxpayers are footing a hefty bill for the Pallister Government’s interference in labour negotiations which a judge says lead to a 2016 strike.

Justice Joan McKelvey is awarding the University of Manitoba Faculty Association $19.3 million.

Manitoba Federation of labour President Kevin Rebeck says the government only has itself to blame.

“They interfered in collective bargaining, they secretly … gave directions and monkeyed around in a process that works,” said Rebeck.

Most of the money will go to the membership of professors, instructors, and librarians for lost wages and increases. University of Manitoba Faculty Association President Orvie Dingwall says the decision is welcomed by the membership.

“Members are relieved for that and you know money helps solve some things,” said Dingwall.

The court decision says in 2016 the province secretly involved itself into the late stages of negotiations, demanding the university offer a zero per cent wage increase. It says prior to this a 17.5 per cent salary hike over four years was on the table.

Justice McKelvey concluded the government’s actions were an egregious charter rights breach, which caused the three week strike, and damages are warranted. "Manitoba’s conduct significantly disrupted the balance between UM and UMFA and damaged their relationship," wrote McKelvey. “This served to seriously undermine and substantially interfere with what had been a meaningful and productive process.”

‘Certainly in my message last night to our members which was, take a moment to celebrate this decision which affirms our position that we have been harmed,’ said Dingwall.

The province has the option to appeal the award.

In a statement a government spokesperson says out of respect for the court’s process its response is limited, ‘apart from noting that we will be thoroughly reviewing the decision and taking legal advice on appeal considerations.’

Pending an appeal, labour leaders say they hope this serves as a reminder.

‘So we hope that this is a lesson for Premier Stefanson to not follow in Pallister’s footsteps,’ said Rebeck. 

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