TORONTO – The Ontario Public Service Employees Union states that it is an “unwillingness by management to withdraw several demands for concessions and claw backs to its existing contract, and its reluctance to negotiate many of the union’s proposals, that have Ontario community college support workers walking the picket lines. “We tried to reach an accommodation with management negotiators but it became very clear as we approached the strike deadline that they were not prepared to meet us on terms we could accept” said Rod Bemister, chair of the bargaining committee for the OPSEU representing more than 8,000 college support workers at the province’s 24 community colleges.
“We were committed to negotiating a deal at the table and we remain committed to negotiating a new deal at the bargaining table. We are prepared to return to negotiations at any time but management must adopt a fresh approach.” Bemister said the bargaining team had adopted the theme “good jobs today and good jobs for tomorrow,” and that had the union accepted management’s proposals they would have betrayed the long-term interests of their members and of graduating students looking for good job prospects.
With the breakdown of contract talks picket lines went up early September 1st at more than 100 campuses around Ontario. The bargaining team received a 77 per cent strike vote on July 14. Bemister noted that while it is within management’s right to keep the colleges open, he acknowledged that students and the public will be asked to exercise patience when doing business at the colleges.
“Support staff work in frontline services at the colleges and the first responsibility of management is to ensure the health and safety of students, teaching staff and the public,” said Bemister.