Post-secondary education is in a state of crisis under the Progressive Conservative provincial government. This government has cut funding, increased tuition fees, and meddled with the autonomy of our universities. As always, young Manitobans and the province at large deserve a high-quality and affordable public post-secondary education. But dwindling support and interference by our provincial government, means students pay more while faculty struggle to maintain the quality of their education.
Universities are no better or no worse than the quality of faculty and nothing is more important to the academic mission of the university than to recruit and retain talented professors to teach and do research here. But faculty have been ill-treated in recent years, which must change as Manitoba falls further behind in comparison with other Canadian universities.
All parties know the University of Manitoba has the resources available to ensure that faculty are fairly compensated, but the PC government has imposed a punitive bargaining mandate, telling Manitobans that high-quality post-secondary education does not matter. This regressive approach will drive away our best faculty and students, who will go elsewhere to seek better educational opportunities.
We hoped that new leadership in government would provide a more positive direction and abandon the Pallister-era policies of interference with university autonomy. At the very least, they could allow UMFA and the University of Manitoba to bargain in good faith unhindered by backroom interference. Unfortunately, that appears not to be the case as neither Heather Stefanson nor Shelly Glover has spoken against this policy. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the crucial role of research and education, with the University of Manitoba faculty promoting evidence-based public policy. That is just one illustration of the key role our largest university plays in the lives of all Manitobans.
We call on the administration of the University of Manitoba to join with UMFA members and stand up to the unethical intrusion of the PC government into bargaining. The actions of this government have led us to the brink of job action that no one wants. Unless the PC Government of Manitoba, under new leadership, rescinds its bargaining mandate immediately before it is too late, they shall be directly responsible for any job action that ensues.
The Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations supports UMFA fully in its efforts to protect the quality of our university system for our students and all Manitobans. We encourage other faculty associations from across Canada to join us in standing in solidarity with UMFA.