Manitoba Daily

Monday, December 6, 2021

UMFA seeks 28 million in damages from province in 2016 labor negotiations

Key takeaways:

  • As the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) strike entered its fourth week.
  • The case’s specifics, according to UMFA’s lawyers, are based on trial conclusions upheld by the Manitoba Court of Appeal.

As the current strike by the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) began its fourth week, lawyers for the union representing academic staff told a Manitoba judge that UMFA members should be granted $28 million in damages for the events that led up to the 2016 strike.

Justice Joan McKelvey of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench began hearing arguments on Monday in a two-day trial.

The issue is about damages that UMFA’s lawyers claim should be given to faculty members due to a Charter violation that safeguards the right to collective bargaining.

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It revolves around five years ago, which led to a three-week strike, according to UMFA lawyer Garth Smorang.

Smorang referenced earlier court decisions in a case involving the province’s Public Sector Sustainability Act and a Manitoba Labour Board decision finding the University of Manitoba engaged in unfair labor practice by failing to inform UMFA that the university received instructions from the government during the contract negotiations. Since then, the institution has apologized and given members the maximum penalty of $2,000 each, totaling $2 million.

When the government intervened and ordered the institution to seek a wage freeze, Smorang told the court that UMFA had received an offer from the university for a compensation increase of 17.5% over four years on the average member’s income.

UMFA is now suing for $21.8 million in damages, plus interest, for the salary increases Smorang promised the court members they would have received under the agreement.

UMFA seeking $28 million in damages from province for governments  interference in 2016 labour negotiations

“We submit to you the facts of the case as submitted to you and your findings,” Smorang contended, “and this loss is directly linked to the government’s extensive meddling in the 2016 round of collective bargaining.”

UMFA is also seeking damages for $2.5 million in strike compensation to members in 2016, $177,000 in benefits covered by UMFA during the 2016 strike, $74,000 in strike expenditures, and $4.1 million in lost salaries incurred by members during the strike that year, according to Smorang.

UMFA’s lawyers told McKelvey that the case’s specifics are based on trial findings upheld by the Manitoba Court of Appeal.

Last month, the Manitoba Court of Appeal ruled that the government had the right to force a wage freeze on the public sector but upheld a ruling by the Court of Queen’s Bench that the government had violated collective bargaining rights during contract negotiations at the University of Manitoba in 2016.

Smorang told the court that the Public Sector Compensation Committee set the wage freeze, which the court heard was made up of six cabinet members and held sessions that former Premier Brian Pallister occasionally attended.

The province’s lawyers are due to present their case on Tuesday.

The Manitoba government has stated that it will not comment on the 2016 matters before the court due to a lack of respect for the legal process.

Source: CTV News

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