Toronto – The College Employer Council should be working out a deal at the bargaining table instead of calling a strike-prolonging vote on its final offer, the bargaining team for 12,000 striking college faculty says.
The moves come as the strike continues and the doors to education remain closed to students across Ontario.
“Rather than continue to bargain, the colleges have called a vote that, in itself, could easily keep faculty and students out of their classrooms for another two weeks,” said JP Hornick, chair of the faculty bargaining team for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).
The College Employer Council has called for a province-wide vote and a suspension of the strike.
Under the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act, votes by unionized college employees must be supervised by the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB), meaning OLRB staff must be in attendance for votes at more than 100 campuses across the province. A strike vote by college faculty in September took two weeks to organize and complete.
“We have said all along that faculty has a better plan for the colleges, and we do,” said Hornick. “Our objective since we began bargaining in July has been to improve education quality for students and fairness for faculty.
“Today, our better plan is this: If the colleges come to the table now and bargain a settlement that our team can recommend, we can have faculty back in the classrooms tomorrow and hold the ratification vote after.”
Hornick said the only issue in dispute now is a no-cost item about faculty making decisions about what’s best in their classrooms. Council, however, has insisted on keeping serious concessions in to undermine the progress that had been made at the table, she said. The parties had worked on a plan with the provincial government to create a joint task force that would move higher-cost items, such as precarious work, staffing, and governance issues, “into an arena where those items would be directly funded by government and addressed in that way.”
“Negotiation is the only way to go at this juncture,” OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said. “I agree completely with recent statements by the Premier and by Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews that the solution to this strike is at the bargaining table,” he said. “The strike has gone on long enough, and we don’t need employer-caused delays making it go even longer.”