#2 POTENTIAL UMFA (University of Manitoba Faculty Association) Strike

This letter was sent to the email addresses for CUPE members as provided to us by the University.  If you did not receive this email, please contact us immediately.

Last week we sent you a newsletter regarding a potential UMFA strike.  UMFA  has set a strike deadline of midnight Monday, October 21st meaning that they could be on strike as of Tuesday morning.  In our last newsletter we outlined our understanding of the issues behind the strike and stressed that money is not the issue, but rather faculty concerns around academic freedom and related issues.  We also stated that we support UMFA in this important struggle.

We have met with UMFA and other labour unions on campus (UNIFOR and AESES) regarding how we are all going to demonstrate support for the strike.  We also raised all of the questions that you sent us with the Human Relations Officer for CUPE 3909.   As of this date, this is the information we can forward to you.

How will this strike affect you?

Different groups will be affected in different ways.  As we stated in our last newsletter, Manitoba Labour Law does not protect our members if they refuse to cross the picket line.  By refusing to cross, we could be deemed to be in violation of our employment contract.  All communications from the University to the Union and to our members via the University website confirm that this will be the position of the University Administration.

The Local Union is very concerned about the situation and we want to assist you in navigating the difficulties that you may face in the days ahead.

How are CUPE Instructors affected specifically?

CUPE 3909 Unit 2 Sessional Instructors and Unit 1 Student Instructors are expected to report to work and do their jobs.  Instructors are not permitted to change the time of courses or move the courses to an off-campus location.

What does this mean with respect to students who choose not to cross the picket lines?

Two very different messages are being sent to students.

UMFA and others are informing students that the Manitoba Human Rights Act states that individuals cannot face discrimination on the basis of their political activity.  UMFA’s Open Letter to Students states: “Therefore, students who refuse to cross picket lines must be accommodated and cannot be subject to academic penalty or disadvantage.”

The University message is less clear.  They tell students: “A strike will not affect your academic record, work placements or co-op programs.”  However they go to on to say: “Plan to attend your classes as usual, as we don’t know yet what effect a strike will have on class schedules, mid-term exams or final papers.”  They also advise that “If students choose not to cross the picket line, they are responsible for materials covered in any class or lab.”

Our CUPE Instructors are in a very difficult position.  We suggest that you ask your Department Head/Dean/Director how to respect the rights of students who do not cross the picket line without putting your employment contract in jeopardy.

How are Teaching Assistants and Grader Markers affected specifically?

Our CUPE Student members are also in a difficult position.  In their role as students, they do not have to cross the picket line, but as Teaching Assistants and Grader Markers they are required to report to work and do their job.  Depending on your job and your supervisor, there may or may not be work for you.  Unfortunately there is no guarantee of hours for TAs and Grader Markers under these circumstances so you may lose hours due to the strike.  However, you may have the opportunity to extend your appointment and/or make up hours when the strike ends.

CUPE Librarians and Counsellors will also be required to report to work and perform their duties for the duration of the strike.

Will CUPE members be required to perform UMFA work?

CUPE members should not be performing the work of striking UMFA faculty.  The University might approach you to do some of this work but it is important for you to know that you are legally protected if you refuse.  We have been given assurances from Administration that our members will not be pressured into performing UMFA work and will not be penalized if they refuse such work.

How can we support the striking UMFA members?

UMFA has asked us to be friendly when we cross the picket line, take their material, ask them any questions we may have, and express our support.  They have also invited us to join their picket line when we are not working.  Along with the other campus labour Unions, we will be distributing “IN SUPPORT” buttons, which you will receive in the mail.  We are asking that you wear these during the strike.

Your Union will remain available to assist you and to answer any other questions that you may have during the strike.  Please contact us at cupe3909@gmail.com or telephone the office at 204-453-5493.  If your matter is urgent please call 204-250-8697.