The union representing faculty and counsellors at Ontario Colleges has given notice that labour action could be on the way.
On Monday, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) gave the College Employer Council (CEC) the necessary 5 days’ notice that members could begin working-to-rule.
Work-to-rule will see employees doing no more than the bare minimum described in their job description, but OPSEU Local 417 President Grant Currie says the intent is to make a point to management and administration without impacting students.
Currie says he imagines work-to-rule to continue as long as the CEC refuses to negotiate or agree to interest arbitration.
“Imposing terms and conditions is the most egregious form of management, virtually disrespecting the role of the OPSEU as the bargaining party in the process,” Currie said in an email.
OPSEU says 59% of its’ members voted in favour of a strike mandate, but the CEC contests that the strike mandate hardly represents the majority of the employees.
“Of full-time and partial-load professors, instructors, librarians, and counsellors, only 68% cast their ballot,” the CEC said on Monday.
“Accordingly, the strike vote demonstrates that approximately 40% of faculty voiced their support for a strike.”
Locally, Currie says, 74% of employees turned out for the vote with roughly 60% voting in favour of the mandate to match the provincial number.
The CEC says it has not left the negotiating table and has been clear about the items they cannot agree to, as well as those that “still show room for common ground”.
The Union is demanding certain conditions like increasing evaluation time for each student to 6.8 minutes per week from the current five, faculty consent for the sale or reuse of faculty course materials and that colleges staff schools with designated counsellors and academic librarians.
The CEC says its’ newly imposed terms and conditions improve working conditions for employees, including the maximum wage increases allowed under Bill 124.
Currie says however, that imposition of terms and conditions “prevents the possibility of good labour relations, eliminates faculty consent, and is itself a form of labour disruption.”
The bargaining team says either continued negotiations or interest arbitration would ensure labour stability while allowing both sides’ proposals to be considered by an arbitrator.
All Ontario colleges will pause for the winter break after December 17, with the next semester starting on January 17.