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.
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