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HomeEducationStrike mandate vote on the way for Ontario colleges

Strike mandate vote on the way for Ontario colleges

For the second time in just four years, Ontario’s 24 public colleges look to potentially be on the cusp of a work stoppage.

Members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) will vote from December 9-11, but local Union President Grant Currie who represents St. Lawrence College faculty and counselors says a strike is a last resort that faculty hope to avoid.

“We believe there will be a strong mandate for a strike but that is not to say a strike will happen,” Currie explained.

“We are fighting to say that the faculty across the province believe in this agenda that our bargaining team is putting forward and hope it’s going to send a message to the College Employer Council to come back to the table and negotiate what is best for the students and what is best for the faculty.” 

Currie says he doesn’t anticipate the union choosing to strike, and says the College Employer Council (CEC) either locking out faculty or unilaterally imposing terms and conditions of employment would be the more likely scenario.

Much of the sticking points in negotiations have centered around addressing equity and Indigenization, in school counselors, use of faculty produced materials, and adjusting the workload agreement for staff.

Currie says the current workload agreement was negotiated in 1984 and has seen only minor tweaks since.

Specifically, faculty are seeking evaluation time for each student to be raised from 5 minutes and 24 seconds per week to 7 minutes and 12 seconds per week for a 3 hour course.

In a written statement to YGK News, Council CEO Graham Lloyd says that the union “seeks immediate changes such as those to the workload formula, with resulting cost increases that are prohibited by Bill 124.”

With the gulf between the two parties seeming too large to bridge, the faculty team offered Voluntary Binding Interest Arbitration in front of arbitrator William Kaplan.

The CEC, however, has not agreed to that, and has instead proposed Final Offer Selection which would lead to Kaplan selecting one side or the other in its totality.

In a November 25 letter to the Chair and President of union bargaining, Lloyd says on behalf of the CEC that the union should have no issue with this style of arbitration over what they say are reasonable, moderate and necessary demands.

“Assuming those assertions accurately reflect the CAAT-A team’s confidence in your demands,” Lloyd writes.

“We trust that you will be prepared to place them entirely before Arbitrator Kaplan.”

Currie says this type of negotiation leads to toxic labour relations, leaving no room for compromise between the two sides.

“It’s basically a coin toss,” Currie said.

“It’s either/or and I don’t think that serves the students or the colleges at all.”

Both sides have maintained that they are negotiating with the students’ best interests in mind, and hope to avoid a strike or lockout.

Additionally, the Canadian Federation of Students penned a letter in support of faculty negotiations they say are aiming for the betterment of the college education system.

A strike could very well impact students the Winter semester, with the 16th being the first possible day, but Currie says the bargaining team is unlikely to declare a strike date and hopes to still work out a fair agreement.

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporterhttp://ygknews.ca
Born and raised in Whitby, Ontario, Owen has been living in Kingston for about three years after starting the band Willy Nilly. Prior to that he worked at CKLB radio in Yellowknife and completed studies in Niagara College's Broadcasting program.

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