The Ontario Public Sector Employees Union has pushed faculty to vote against accepting the last offer by the College Employer Council in the upcoming forced ballot.
Through social media and press releases, OPSEU’s bargaining team has strongly encouraged its members to vote reject the offer by colleges in the forced contract vote this week.
CAAT Academic union members will be voting digitally starting on Tuesday until Thursday on whether to override the bargaining team on the employer offer which has largely agreed with the union in regards to salary but not on academic freedom.
The council requested the Ontario Labor Relations Board call the vote on Nov 6 after leaving the bargaining table following a short second attempt at finding a deal with the union.
A simple majority of over 50% of the some 12,000 union faculty members will result in a ballot win.
According to an email obtained by the Post from Humber College to students, if faculty vote in favor of the agreement, then classes would start the following week.
If college faculty vote against the offer, the provincial government will likely intervene with back-to-work legislation, according to observers.
OPSEU lead negotiator JP Hornick has made clear to union members that the deal should not be agreed to as it would be “the worst outcome.”
“It would be non-sensical to vote for this bad offer when a better resolution is just around the corner,” Hornick said in a statement to union members.
“This is the time to press on vigorously, not to capitulate.”
Picketing faculty at Humber College have told the Post that most, if not all, faculty at the institution would be voting against the deal.
Hornick has described the vote as “coercion” over “negotiation”.
Striking Humber College professor Tyler Shipley said that while the forced vote was “frustrating and demoralizing”, he thinks the employer has “miscalculated.”
“If they had made us vote on an offer that was somewhat better than the last one, I think many people would accepted it,” Shipley told the Post.
“But having us vote on basically the same offer, it is so transparently bullying, I think that will actually compel more people to vote against it.”
OPSEU published a comparison that broke down the new offer and what it would mean for faculty, as well as a statement explaining to union members the consequences of voting yes and with original union and college offers, without prejudice.
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 Lakeshore student Paula Greenberg told the Post 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 commented 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. With files from OPSEU and The GH Post. Image 1 of strike rally at St Clair College from SRC.