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Student leaders request return to bargaining



Student union presidents from eight schools have called on Queen’s Park to force college and union representatives to get back to the bargaining table to end a labour strike that has cancelled classes at 24 public colleges and one university since Oct 16. 

The strike launched last Monday when the College Employer’s Union and Ontario Public Sector Employees Union could not come to a deal before the deadline at 12:01 am.

In a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne and several Members of Provincial Parliament, the student leaders request that Ontario get the two sides to the bargaining table to end the dispute that has affected some 500,000 full- and part-time students across the province.

“We shouldn’t be a bargaining chip in this,” Fanshawe College student president Marganna Sampson said on Friday quoted by CBC News.

Sampson said those signing the letter are not taking sides in the strike but want both parties to find a solution to the problem.

“We’re not here to criticize or judge r to overstep in anyway, we are just representing our students and we want what’s best for them in the long run,” she said.

Ignite’s neutrality questioned

Student leadership from Humber, which also represents Guelph-Humber under Ignite, as well as leaders at Seneca, St. Clair, Mohawk, Niagara, Sheridan, Confederation and Fanshawe college’s have signed the letter.

However, many students have given their full support to the teachers walking the picket lines, contrasting their own student presidents’ claimed neutrality.

In the comment section of the official Ignite response to the strike posted on Facebook, Humber Lakeshore student Paula Greenberg asked this: “Does IGNITE have any plans to show solidarity for the faculty? Other institutions’ students are having rallies to support their striking faculty.”

Ignite President Maja Jocson responded saying that Ignite was holding a “neutral position for this issue” as they understand the views of both parties.

Jocson posted that the student union was “committed to support our students and ensure that students voice is heard during this time.”
Following up with Greenberg, the Post asked whether the effort by Jocson and other student executives to get OPSEU and the College Employers Council is a valuable cause.
“I do think having the government involved to get them back to the bargaining table is good, but I do worry that colleges still will not meet the demands of the union,” the Childcare and Family Services student said in response.
Tyler Shipley, a teacher at Humber College now on strike, was surprised by the Ignite statement. He emphasized that all parties, including the staff, want the strike to end.
“But the statement, with all that emphasis on ‘neutrality’, can be easily used by the government to justify back-to-work legislation,” he told the Post.
Shipley said forcing the strike to end would be a “disaster” for the faculty. The intervention that Ignite President Maja Jocson and other school leaders call for is “is totally in favour of the employer.”
“So, although I really, really understand students’ impatience to get back to class, and I share it, I think the whole point is that we want to go back under better conditions, not worse conditions.”
The Post reached out via email to Jocson but have not received a response at this time.
Several student rallies have been held in support of striking faculty, which include professors, librarians and counsellors.
The strike, at this point, sees no sign of ending.
A strike rally for all college picketers in Toronto is being on Wednesday in front of Deb Matthews’ office, the provincial minister in charge of the post-secondary portfolio.

More details to follow. Image of Queen’s Park from the Toronto Star. Correction: Shipley was not “disappointed”, but “surprised”.  ■

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Arbitration awarded in Ontario college faculty dispute



Arbitrator William Kaplan handed down an award on Wednesday, announcing binding arbitration that puts an end to the dispute between Ontario’s 24 public colleges and the union that represents faculty, librarians and counselors. 

The college faculty union described a major win in regards to “academic freedom”, which will allow faculty to speak freely without fear of reprisal.

The award also includes improved job security for partial-load and full-time faculty, according to a statement from the union.

A new government-run task force will also be put in place to carry out recommendations regarding “faculty complement, precarious work, college funding, student success, and governance issues.

Collective bargaining started for a new agreement between the College Employer Council and the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union in July, but failed to come to an agreement by 12:01 a.m. deadline on Oct. 16, resulting in a strike by the union.

“Today’s award from arbitrator William Kaplan could have been bargained between the colleges and faculty a long time ago,” said JP Hornick, chair of union bargaining team.

“With any reasonable amount of cooperation from the colleges, there would never have been a strike, students would not have had to worry about losing their semester, and faculty would never have lost five weeks’ pay.”

“Throughout bargaining, which began in July, the College Employer Council had ample opportunity to bargain a deal,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas in a statement.

Details for the arbitration agreement were posted online on the College Employer Council’s website.

An OPSEU press conference following the arbitration award was positive in regards to what was accomplished, but made clear that further improvements for precarious work and other issues still have happen.

When asked whether the strike process was “worth it”,  OPSEU negotiator Nicole Zwiers said “a strike is always so costly”, however she explained that for the union there was “there was no other option”.

Zwiers hosted the conference with OPSEU President Warren “Smokey” Thomas.

“The colleges are Crown agencies and the government could have – and should have – stepped in and forced them to bargain,” Thomas said regarding the strike.

“It is too late to prevent the strike, but it is not too late for the government to step in and change the leadership on the Council.”

The College Student Alliance made clear in a tweet that if it’s previous demand of binding arbitration on Nov. 7 was agreed to by the two sides, a bargain could have been struck “weeks ago”.

“It’s both disappointing [and] frustrating students were ignored.”

The University of Guelph-Humber was shut down on Oct. 16 due to Humber College faculty that teach at the university and the campus being behind a picket line, with the administration saying that, without college faculty, they could not offer programs in full.

University courses resumed on Oct. 30 via a digital format, angering many students who disagreed with the way Guelph-Humber operated during the strike.

University courses returned to campus a month ago, with college courses returning with the rest of the province the day after on Nov. 21.

More details to follow. Please refresh for the latest. 


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Binding arbitration expected in college dispute



Binding arbitration is expected Wednesday morning in the dispute between the 24 public colleges and the union representing faculty, librarians and counselors. 

The Ontario Public Sector Employees Union will be holding a press conference at 11:45 a.m. that can be live streamed via their official Facebook page.

More details to follow. The Post will be covering the announcement online. Image 1 from previous files. Follow our Twitter here ■

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Ontario college arbitration to be awarded this week



The union representing faculty that went on strike earlier this fall and negotiators for Ontario’s 24 public colleges released a joint statement on Sunday saying that binding arbitration occurred with an award release this week. 

“The arbitrator’s award will form the new collective agreement for Ontario college faculty,” reads the statement released by the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union and the College Employer Council.

The provincially-appointed arbitrator has imposed a media blackout until the award is released, and thus, the details of of the binding arbitration become clear.

OPSEU and the colleges “participated in mediation from [Dec.] 14 through [Dec.] 16.”

The arbitration followed back-to-work legislation that was passed by Queen’s Park on Nov. 19 of this year.

The legislation came after a dramatic forced vote requested by the College Employer Council where a majority of the 12,000 striking faculty voted no to agreeing with the a final offer from the colleges with the encouragement of OPSEU.

The strike launched on Oct. 16 when a midnight deadline could not be reached for a collective bargaining agreement between the colleges and the union.

For five weeks, some full and part-time college students across the province were out of classrooms and faculty, librarians and counselors were on the streets in mass picket lines.

The University of Guelph-Humber had university courses shut down for two weeks before they resumed online in a digital format, much to general student disappointment.

University classes returned to the classroom on Nov. 20 and college courses resumed the day after.

More details to follow. Image 1 of picketing faculty from The Globe and Mail.  ■

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