Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations calls on Minister Wayne Ewasko to end his interference at universities

Dec 3, 2021 | News

Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations calls on Minister Wayne Ewasko to end his interference at universities
Minister has confirmed that he plans to interfere with wage mandates at all of Manitoba’s public universities

Winnipeg – The Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations (MOFA) is calling on the Minister of Advanced Education, Wayne Ewasko to end its policy of interference with Manitoba’s universities. The current strike at the University of Manitoba began in large part because of that government interference, through the imposition of a secret wage mandate preventing fair and free collective bargaining. At a budget town hall in Pinawa this week, Minister Ewasko, who had previously denied the existence of a mandate at the University of Manitoba, confessed that interference in negotiations applied to all of Manitoba’s public institutions through a “sectoral mandate.”

“Just like the crisis in health care that stems from a failure to recruit and retain nurses, higher education faces a similar crisis that stems from our failure to recruit and retain talented faculty,” said MOFA President Scott Forbes. “The new Premier said she would be different, but that’s not what we see. What we see are the same Pallister-era policies that do harm to our universities, and rob our youth of the opportunity to stay at home for a high-quality education.”

With the University of Manitoba Faculty Association currently on strike, the regular academic staff unit at the University of Winnipeg Faculty Association (UWFA) is set to begin bargaining, with a contract that expired in 2020. They face the same uncertainty as their UMFA colleagues and hope to avoid the same fate. UWFA is looking for Mr. Ewasko to be open and honest about how and why he intends to interfere in their negotiations. He has failed to do that so far and can begin by explaining to current and future students how he thinks they benefit by making them pay more for university education of lesser quality.

“We’re watching what’s happening at the U of M because of this government’s interference and we want to make it clear to the Minister that mandates and cuts to post-secondary education are not the way to build our economy and make a just and progressive society,” said UWFA President Peter Miller. “We need the government to respect the autonomy of Universities and return to the levels of funding that permit Manitoba Universities to be gateways to employment, incubators of talent, and to help support and sustain the next generation of our province’s leaders.”

The public admission of the sectoral mandate comes after repeated denials by Minister Ewasko, despite a briefing note prepared for the Minister clearly stating that mandates would be applied. Minister Ewasko has refused to meet with faculty members before and during the current UMFA strike. Since 2017, this PC government has cut $28 million from universities and colleges in Manitoba.

“In a small campus like Brandon that services many rural communities, we are already running a fairly lean operation, and further cuts and wage mandates will make it difficult to continue offering a balanced course selection to our diverse student body,” said Brandon​ ​University Faculty Association (BUFA) President, Gautam Srivastava. “If we want our students in the Westman area and from around the world to succeed, we do need to recruit and retain faculty. We can’t do that when this government continues to interfere.”

The Manitoba Organization of Faculty Association represents over 1,600 professors, librarians and instructors at all four of Manitoba’s public universities.