Following the College Employer Council’s request for a forced vote to the labour board, the union representing faculty at Ontario’s 24 public colleges has requested a return to the bargaining table.
The Ontario Public Sector Employees Union released a statement Tuesday afternoon that calls on the college council to “get back to the bargaining table and move quickly to end a strike that is now into its fourth week.”
Union lead negotiator JP Hornick called the college’s refusal to bargain “nothing short of outrageous” saying their last offer “contains serious concessions.”
After the colleges and union representing faculty, librarians and counselors couldn’t reach an agreement by an October deadline, OPSEU members starting striking on Oct 16.
The strike has affected some 500,000 full and part-time students across the province with classes cancelled until the strike is resolved.
“Until yesterday, we thought we were very close to a deal. Today, it turns out, they’ve pushed us farther apart,” Hornick said in the statement.
The College Employer Council asked the Ontario Labour Relations Board to call a forced vote where striking union members would have the opportunity to vote on whether they accept the latest deal offered by the colleges or continue picketing.
The vote is planned for next week between Nov 14 and 16 to be carried out via electronic ballot for the some 12,000 college staff on strike since October.
The college negotiating team chair Sonia Del Missier called on the union to suspend the strike so students could return to class while they await the results of the vote.
“We are still over a week away from the vote results being known and we again request that the strike be suspended for the sake of 500,000 students,” Del Missier said in a statement.
“The suspension will allow faculty and students to return to class and not another week of classes”
Hornick has requested union members to vote against the College Employer Council’s final offer until they return with an improved bargain OPSEU can recommend to its members.
What are the union demands?
According to a pamphlet made by two college librarians, there are five reasons faculty are on strike.
The first bullet point is the headline “we need more full-time faculty”, the top sticking point for a majority of union members the Post has questioned. The union says full-time faculty numbers are decreasing while the student population increases year-to-year.
Second on the pamphlet is that contract faculty members need job security.
Those on contract need to re-apply every semester to continue to hold a job, and a majority of college faculty are on this system.
Number three on the list is equal work deserving equal pay. Faculty that aren’t full time are not being paid for the time they spend preparing for courses, marking academic submissions and out-of-class support.
Humber student Paula Greenberg told the Post last week that many teachers in her Child and Youth Services program at Humber College worked in their field as well as teaching, as they were not employed full-time.
“Quality of life for my teachers is important because it effects my education,” Greenberg explained.
She said with part-time faculty they didn’t have enough time to properly “address questions, meet students outside of class and explain lectures”, causing both the teacher and the student stress.
The fourth pamphlet point is that academic decisions require faculty input.
Union local board executive Miles Magner called on a “senate or some way to craft academic work.”
OPSEU supporter Mohammed Ali has touched on that, saying that he had seen success at Ryerson where both faculty and students had input on their academic content.
The fifth reason for why Ontario college faculty are on strike is that the ratio between counselors and students need to be balanced for the sake of the students.
Strikers say the college administrations are now “moving to outsource” the work of counsellors, which OPSEU says gives “less accessibility to adequate and meaningful mental health coverage for students.”
More details to follow. Image 1 of picketing faculty from TB News Watch.