Negotiations between Ontario’s colleges and the union representing faculty have resumed, after faculty voted in favour of a strike on Jan. 13. The two sides were back at the bargaining table on Jan 19. Towards the end of the week, a provincial mediator advised a recess from negotiations. Talks are set to resume Tuesday Jan 26.
On Saturday, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, released an update of the negotiations so far. Initially, the colleges had proposed a 1.75 per cent wage increase for the first two years of a four-year contract, and a 2.0 per cent increase during the final two years. That proposal has been amended to include a 2.0 per cent increase for the second year. OPSEU had been asking for a 2.5 increase in each year of a three-year agreement.
OPSEU also notes that the colleges:
withdrew their demand to increase retiree life insurance premiums. The imposed term would have increased the costs to retirees five-fold. withdrew their demand that an employee who changes from employment at one College to a different College would lose the right to continue with the pension plan. amended the list of arbitrators withdrawing some of the persons they had added when terms and conditions were imposed on November 18.
As for OPSEU, the union has amended their proposal on academic freedom. Whereas before they were calling for academic freedom to be protected in colleges to the same extent it is protected at universities, the union has revised their proposal to more closely align with management’s position, to “make it clear that faculty, in the exercise of academic freedom, remain accountable to external accrediting and regulating bodies, the Ministry, the terms of the Collective Agreement, and program requirements.”
Despite these advancements, both sides remain divided over the recommendations of the Joint Workload Task Force report. Although both sides agreed to the recommendations in March 2009, they are at odds over what it entails. The more than 500 page document made recommendations regarding flexibility in workload, evaluation of faculty, out of class assistance for students, and professional standards and relationships.
OPSEU represents 9,000 academic staff at Ontario’s 24 community colleges. If a strike occurs, it would not be held until the middle of February. Some 500,000 students would be affected.
For all of our coverage of a looming college work stoppage, please click here.