U of M nursing educators say strike will prolong what they call a nursing crisis in Manitoba

A number of educators from the University of Manitoba are worried the ongoing faculty strike will put even more strain on what they say is a nursing crisis in the province.

The educators, who are members of the University of Manitoba Faculty Association went on strike last Tuesday, citing government interference in the bargaining process as a cause.

UMFA, which represents more than 1,000 staff, has been fighting for higher wages for its members, arguing that low pay is causing retention and recruitment problems.

Those problems are no different within the nursing faculty, the educators said in an open letter to Health Minister Audrey Gordon, dated Nov. 3.

“Faculty on the picket lines are walking not only to improve their salary but more importantly, to create a salary scale that will attract new faculty and retain current faculty who can step up to the challenge of preparing nurses for a health-care system in crisis,” the letter said.

The crisis is “due to the nursing shortage, a pandemic and increasing interpersonal violence and moral distress on the front line,” it said.

The 37 nursing educators who signed the letter said some colleagues have retired early or left the university for better paid positions elsewhere.

Nursing instructors and assistant professors earn less than general duty nurses, the letter said.

“We’ve been hearing throughout the pandemic especially about the value and importance of nurses, but also about the importance of retaining the nurses we have and continuing to get new nurses here in the province,” Orvie Dingwall, the president of the UMFA said in an interview on Tuesday.

“If we want more nurses here in Manitoba, then we need more nursing faculty to educate them. We can’t provide that education if we don’t have those faculty members.”

The nursing educators are calling on the health minister to confer with newly-elected Premier Heather Stefanson and other cabinet ministers to help bring about a resolution to the collective bargaining issues between UMFA and the university.

One of the key issues is what Dingwall says is government interference.

“It’s because of the wage restraint legislation that’s been in place for the last five years, and right now it’s also a key issue at the bargaining table,” she said.

“Our members really shouldn’t have to worry about ministers and government — the university should be independent from the government.” 

CBC News has reached out to the health minister for a comment but has not yet received a response.

Dingwall says the UMFA is still in negotiations with the university.

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