THUNDER BAY – Students at Confederation College, and other Ontario Colleges may have their school year start off by having to cross a picket line to get in the buildings. “Unless there is an abrupt change by management in its contract proposals community college workers will be on picket lines effective Sept 1”, the president of the union representing staff said today.
“I’m not optimistic that a settlement can be reached by Wednesday’s strike deadline,” stated Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union which represents more than 8,000 support workers at 24 community colleges across the province. “As we are fond of saying, contracts are never settled on the picket line; they’re settled at the bargaining table. But, regrettably, college management has given little indication they’re prepared to do the heavy lifting that’s required to reach a settlement.”
Speaking at a news conference in Toronto, Thomas said union negotiators have been prepared to bargain seriously since early June when the two sides first sat down at the contract table but their efforts have been met with indifference by management represented by the College Employer Council.
With less than 36 hours before their contract expires and with a the prospect of a strike looming large Thomas said an “enviable record” of 32 years of labour peace with the community colleges by support staff could be shattered if management fails to roll up its sleeves and commits to reaching a deal. College support staff last took job action in 1979.
College management is seeking several concessions and claw backs that threaten job security of current members and the wages and benefits of future employees of post-secondary education.
“If we cave in to the concessions and claw backs that management is putting forward in this round of bargaining, what does that say about the quality of employment for future graduates of Ontario’s community colleges … these are not the conditions under which you build a strong and prosperous province,” said Thomas.
He said the union has adopted the slogan “Good Jobs Today … Good Jobs for Tomorrow” to guide it through the negotiating process. If management succeeds is drawing concessions from the union the result will be a post-secondary education system dominated by part-time, precarious and temporary workers.