Union rejects college's final offer - Macleans.ca

Union rejects college’s final offer

OPSEU won’t bring deal to teachers


The union representing Ontario community college faculty has rejected management’s “final” offer, and refuses to bring it to teachers for a vote.

Ontario’s College Compensation and Appointments Council made the offer to OPSEU on Wednesday after several days of talks. After the union rejected the offer, college management asked OPSEU to bring it back to their 9,000 members for a vote. The council said the offer was better than previous ones because it shortens the contract to three years, instead of four, and offers a slightly higher salary increase.

“We’ve been bargaining for quite some time and we’ve offered everything we can afford and everything we can accept,” said Nancy Hood, vice-chair of the college’s academic bargaining team. “It reflects what we can do in this current environment.”

Hood said the council was still waiting Thursday for an official response from the union, but OPSEU spokesman Greg Hamara said the union will not be putting the offer to its membership for a vote. “Our members in effect rejected the final offer when they authorized the bargaining team to call a strike if we failed to reach an agreement, and that happened on Jan. 13,” Hamara said.

If the college wants the offer put to the teachers, he added, it can present it itself because the only thing the union will consider taking to its members is an agreement recommended by the union. Negotiations are ongoing and neither side has walked away from the table.

In an “Urgent Report” Wednesday night, the council expressed disappointment that the union’s bargaining team had rejected the offer. “We have requested that the union take this final offer of settlement to their membership for a vote,” the report said. “This will allow faculty to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to accept the offer.”

Hood said it wasn’t up to the colleges to present the offer to the teachers, but felt they deserved “the democratic right to choose whether they want the offer or not.”

“It’s the union’s membership and it’s their responsibility to take it to their members,” she said.

About 57 per cent of the teachers who voted earlier this month gave OPSEU a strike mandate to back their demands. A strike would curtail classes for as many as 500,000 students.

The Canadian Press

Filed under:

Union rejects college’s final offer

  1. In a nutshell, this unfolding situation is exactly why I don’t care for unions.

    OPSEU is trying to milk a cash cow: meanwhile, the cow has declared (on many occasions now) that she is dangerously low on milk. One needs only look at the provincial deficit to realize the veracity of that statement. This is not, as the union would have everyone believe, a “lawyer’s tactic”. This is reality.

    Council’s strategy (to me) makes perfect sense: Take what we are able to offer you now, and we’ll shorten the contract length to three years so that if the provincial economic clime improves, we’ll be able to sit down and give you more at that point.

    I don’t know about the “militants” out there, but to me, this sounds like a gesture of good faith.

    It’s time the 47% who voted NO to this ridiculous strike mandate made their opinions heard – and counted. A strike now could do serious and irreparable damage, not only to the current group of students and faculty, but also to the COLLEGE SYSTEM AS A WHOLE. THINK ABOUT THAT. THINK VERY HARD.

    If students no longer want to attend college because it is too “risky” (two strikes within three years of each other), it could mean the demise of the community college system in this province – and I’m sure the McGuinty gang would gladly, gladly use the money that is currently being funneled into colleges elsewhere.

    The fact that the union is refusing to take this very reasonable (given the current state of the economy) offer to its members is a sure sign that it has an ulterior agenda – and that agenda, whatever it may be, has nothing to do with “quality education” or concern for the students (or the teachers, for that matter). It is pure, unabashed hatred for the establishment, of the kind one used to see in factories in the thirties – only worse, because the factory workers were poorly treated and we college professors most certainly ARE NOT.

    Don’t believe all the propaganda you’ve been hearing. Think for yourself, think with your whole mind, and think with your whole heart.

  2. I have been reading these comments for several weeks now and in other articles posted to this website, students have commented that many of their college instructors aren’t very good at their jobs. They have cited “material that is three or four years old”, “poor preparation”, “lack of knowledge of their subject”, “doing an absolute minimum of marking”, etc. I’ll bet there is a strong correlation between how good or bad a prof is, and how militantly he or she supports the union.

    In my college, the president of the local makes over $100K a year, and is almost universally panned in the classroom. Other members of the union executive are similarly held to be poor teachers. These reports come not from managers or other faculty. They come from the students themselves.

    Consider that many of your profs pushing for this strike are in the sunset years of their careers. They are near their “85 factor” and could retire tomorrow with full pension and benefits. They are largely miserable and grumpy individuals. Most of them have probably barely tolerated their jobs (and their bosses) for the past 20 or 30 years. I’m sure many of them know just how crippling this strike will be, and they are eager to “stick it to” the management one last time before they retire. And consequences be damned – they don’t give a hoot about the students, or even their younger colleagues who still have to put in 5, 10, 15, or even 20 years before they can even contemplate retirement. They are childish, greedy individuals who just want to see the “boss man” squirm a bit.

    I agree with Richard, he is probably one of the really good teachers who cares about his students. More importantly, however, he understands just how damaging to the system a strike would be at this point.

    A lot of the teachers I know are down on management for making over $100K a year. I know because the union publishes a “Sunshine List” of the top-ranking College administrators before every strike, just to get the troops cranked up. Personally, I think the managers as a group deserve all they are making, and in some cases, probably more. After all, if top-paid profs get paid $100K a year, an extra $60-70K hardly makes up for the equivalent workload of a prof PLUS having to supervise staff, budget for the entire organization, plan strategically, travel constantly – AND deal with unions during grievances and contract negotiations. Sure, there are very likely some terrible people in management too – the 10% rule knows no socioeconomic boundaries – but I just don’t like they way the union employs the “us” versus “them” mentality every time the threat of strike action comes up.

    Anyway, that’s all I have to say for now but I hope everyone exhausts every possible option and then some before going out on strike – because a strike could mean the end of colleges in Ontario as we know them.

  3. It’s not about money here; it appears that both the union and the colleges are very close when it comes to pay raise. The biggest stepping stone seems to be that the instructors want a reasonable amount of freedom to determine their schedules and the colleges want none of that. Maybe it’s propoganda and maybe it’s not.

  4. Bear in mind that not all unions are the same. In my union (part of the Canadian Association of University Teachers), it has always been understood that even after a strike vote has been called, members will have one more chance to vote on a final offer before actually going on strike. With only 57% voting to authorize the strike in the first place, I am astonished that the union executive is not taking the final offer (even if the changes are small) back to members for a vote.

    If even a small number of strike supporters change their minds, the union could easily be split, picket lines could be crossed, and this thing could get ugly.

  5. Peter, I simply can’t believe you. CUPE tried the same tactic with the York strike- claiming that their demands had nothing to do with pay raises. Same with the 2006 college strike. Sounds like a tactic more than anything.

  6. Steve, Money is a small part of it, but not the reason they voted to strike. Adding a quarter percent for one year really makes no difference. The college negotiators are trying to make it about the money as they know that will get people upset at the union. It’s working (thanks in part to incredibly inept media relations from the union).
    In order to end the previous strike, the college and union agreed to set up a ‘joint task force’ to resolve issues regarding workload. The two sides worked out a solution. The college then decided not to follow the recommendations – recommendations that they had agreed to!!
    The other primary issue for the teachers, and one that they are unhappy with the union for not dealing with here, is the ever-growing numbers of part-time contract teachers being used at the college. With no security and often having to work at two different colleges in order to pay bills, is it any wonder that students are complaining about the quality of education that they receive from these teachers?
    The college needs to bargain in good faith in regards to the issues from the Joint Task Force and to make progress on hiring and keeping the best teachers on a full-time basis so that they can improve the quality of education in the colleges.
    Colleges and unions are acting out of their own self interests in this dispute and not in the best interests of the colleges as a whole. They need to get act more responsibly and provide good teachers and a good working environment so that the students get the best oput of their educational experience.

  7. I disagree that converting part-timers to full-timers is going to improve the quality of a college education. Many part-timers, especially in technical programs like the one I coordinate, are what they are because they hold full-time jobs in industry and are teaching a few courses because they want to impart some of their practical knowledge to students in that field of study. Most of them, when questioned, would hardly want to give up their industrial jobs and teach full-time. Besides, what better “real world” advice can students get than the advice of someone who already works full-time in the industry they are studying to break into?

    People deserve to be upset with the union. The union executive is a bunch of self-serving so-and-sos. Really, in their own way they are no better than the establishment they purport to be fighting. They don’t care about the faculty they represent any more than they care about the students or real “quality” in education. Ever been to a union convention? There are plane tickets, $50 steak dinners, beer in bathtubs in hotel suites and all kinds of other debauchery, all on the members’ dollar. I can’t speak specifically about OPSEU or CAAT-A as I have not been active in this union (partly because I was turned off by what I have seen in the past as a member of other unions), but I would not be overly surprised if the executive in this case enjoyed similar luxuries while the rest of us freeze our a$$es off on picket lines, huddled over the burning barrel.

    They care for us? Hah! Wake up and learn the truth!!

    This strike – if it happens – is going to kill the colleges, plain and simple. Students are already nervous; think of all the negative publicity that will be engendered when prospective students come to view attending college as too risky based on the history (i.e., a strike every 3-4 years or so).

    Again, let’s be very careful not to milk the “cow” until she drops dead. Then we are all beggared.

    Dr. Pettigrew (three posts up from this one) makes a lot of sense, to me anyway. While he admittedly belongs to a genteel “association” rather than a largely blue-collar union like us college professors, he is surprised that the union would be so reluctant to bring this latest offer to the members for a vote. He then answers his own question in the very next paragraph, by stating that if a second vote reveals even less support for a strike, this thing “could get ugly.” The union is well aware of this, and that is why they are hedging on the issue of a vote. The reality is that 43% of all college professors are already hopping mad at OPSEU, and the hoodlums know it. They don’t want to lose face and risk being divided.

    I have heard that some faculty at colleges which voted “NO” have been seriously talking about decertification. That might not be a bad idea. If OPSEU is not representing us fairly and competently, then perhaps it is high time they should be replaced.