Union torn over strike vote results - Macleans.ca

Union torn over strike vote results

Student groups, faculty urge bargaining teams back to the table


After a strike mandate vote found the majority of college faculty represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union in favour of striking, the union and dissenting faculty are at odds with the significance of the vote.

Yesterday unofficial results showed 75 per cent of full-time academic staff voted 57 per cent in favour of a strike and 43 per cent against. The majority at Six of the 24 Ontario colleges included in the collective bargaining unit voted against a strike. These schools were Algonquin, Conestoga, Fanshawe, Georgian, Humber, and St. Lawrence.

OPSEU represents 9,000 college teachers, counselors and librarians at all of Ontario’s 24 community colleges.

Following these results, OPSEU posted a press release on their website quoting president Warren Thomas. “Our members have delivered a clear statement,” Thomas is quoted as saying of the vote, which the release calls a “show of province-wide support.”

But St. Lawrence business professor William Tennant, who created the website stopthestrike.net to urge faculty to vote “no” to the Jan. 13 vote, said the strike does not reflect the unified voice Thomas says it does. “We are somewhat disappointed with the provincial results,” Tennant said via e-mail. “Yet at the same time the results do indicate there is a serious split in the ranks.” Despite Thomas’ optimism, Tennant cited the 43 per cent vote against the strike mandate, which created just a small majority in favour.

Of the valid votes tallied, the six college faculties who voted in majority “no” account for a third of all valid votes (“yes” and no”) of the 24 colleges. While these colleges may now be mandated to strike, if a strike does occur, it is by no means “clear” that Ontario’s colleges are completely onboard.

Meanwhile, among the rhetoric, Tyler Charlebois, director of advocacy for the College Students Alliance, said the CSA is concerned about making sure students have all the facts. He said they are moving forward with “very pointed communications to students” to inform them about the results of the vote and what that means for them.

He said the CSA also wants to ensure learning in the classroom continues as normal. “Its really important to be respectful, not only of the faculty but of the other students in your classroom,” he said. The CSA wants to encourage students to leave talk of a strike out of the classroom so as not to disrupt learning.

As the meager turnout of a student-planned walkout showed, perhaps students are serious about business-as-usual and continuing the classes they fear may be cancelled come mid-February. Both the Charlebois and Tennant said students and faculty are pushing for now is to get both bargaining teams back to the negotiation table to find an agreement and avoid a work stoppage.

“What we are trying to do in this early stage in the aftermath of the vote is to emphasize the need to get back to the table and settle now, so we don’t have to deal with the many challenges in exercising future options during a strike,” Tennant said.

These “future options” Tennant is referring to include the possibility that individual colleges may still provide work for faculty who chose to cross the picket line. After a 2008 amendment to the Collective Colleges Bargaining Act, faculty are now allowed to cross the picket line to work if a college chooses to maintain operations. If enough faculty expressed they were willing to work throughout a strike, the college may be able to keep some programs running. But, Charlebois said, students and the Alliance hope a strike can be avoided entirely.

500,000 full and part-time students would be affected by a strike. The last time Ontario college faculty went on strike was 2006, where schools saw 21 days of work stoppage.

What’s the buzz around your school concerning the strike? E-mail me at jenniferpagliaro[at]gmail.com or leave a comment below.

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Union torn over strike vote results

  1. This is precisely why Unions are outdated, unwanted and creators of inflationary problems. It would be wise of the media to NOT even report their concerns, their issues or their “crybaby antics”. The general public is fed up with hearing and reading about what Union wants more this week….incidentally…if something happens regularly it shouldn’t be considered news anyway. Hence the word “NEWs”.
    Shut them all down, if an individual is not capable of bargaining for their own worth, then they do not belong in the work force.

  2. LOL – the UNIONS are the creators of inflationary problems? Wrong. The unions are the ones TRYING to keep the working class earning a fair wage in a safe and equitably managed environment. If not for the unions, there would be no mandatory vacation, no minimum wage, no health and safety committees, no fairness in hiring practices. The employers would trample the workers, and tell the ones left standing “be glad you have a job”. Never mind that the workers are renting their bodies and minds to the employer for their profits, never mind that they deserve a fair piece of the pie. Just do away with them all, you say? Be careful what you wish for. The government is already trampling people’s rights – their right to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression will no doubt be on the chopping block soon enough.

  3. We see that only 75% of the members voted and of those that voted, only 57% voted FOR a strike.
    To my way of thinking that is only 42% of the total 9000 academic staff voted to go on strike. I’m sure if I was a member, I would certainly get out and vote if I really wanted what the union is proposing and if I was not all-that-interested or just plainly wanted to do my job, I would not get out to vote.
    In my view, I don’t think the union has a strong enough mandate to push the union agenda due to the lack of support of most of the members.
    Clearly, six colleges voted NOT to strike so they must be allowed to teach even though the others may strike.

  4. To those who say “they should be lucky even to have a job” and “unions are outdated”, do you see the contradiction? Businesses and government departments are replacing real jobs with temporary contract positions all over the map, leading to a huge and growing sector of the populace who cannot count on the income to do things like buy cars, homes, start families and save for their retirements – things that keep the economy ticking. The only thing that can come from employee uncertainty is further deterioration opf the Canadian economy – and yet more job losses. And where is the money then going to come from to pay retraining, EI, corporate welfare and other stimuli? It’s a viscious circle we are going down and the college professors are right to try to stem the tide towards uncertainty and stagnation. We need to turn this tide around and start rebuilding a stronger economy providing jobs that can be relied about for those that businesses rely upon – their workers.

  5. Unions are breaking our country. We’ve seen the largest job losses in decades, and these clowns think they deserve more for doing less? Students should be outraged. The cost of these actions will be borne by the students (many who won’t be able to find work after graduation) and taxpayers at large (many of whom can’t find work). Unions stopped fighting for fairness many decades ago. Now they’re just leeches on society, sucking up wealth and providing nothing of value in return. Fire them all.

  6. Why the vitriol against unions? All they are doing is representing the staff in protecting reasonable working conditions! Is that so wrong? Just because many companies are abusing their workforce by dropping their wages, making them temporary employees with no job security and protections, and making ever increasing profits to pay to their directors in the form of bonuses, is that the ideal we are working for? Do we want the lowest common demoniator or do we want a better society? Absolutely, we need a strong economy in order to maintain a decent standard of living for Canadian. But surely you need a stable and strong workforce to maintain that economy.
    Is the goal of a civil society to be the maximising of corporate profits (in the short term – after all, how many temporary part-time staff can buy consumer goods?) and the return of the sweatshop? Do you really want that? No? Then perhaps you should reconsider the definition of a civil society and the roles of employers and employees.

  7. When will you Lemmings realize what your puppet masters are doing to you ? Don’t believe any of this tripe about “unions are the ones TRYING to keep the working class earning a fair wage in a safe and equitably managed environment”. Todays earnings are based on todays efforts. Tomorrows earnings are based on your ability to sell your capabilities to a needy buyer. Unions are the primary cause of inflation with the constant push for more salary for no additional product being produced. This crap about “the annual cost of living increase”. Give me a f&^%$n break. YOU ARE THE REASON FOR THE COST OF LIVING INCREASE !

  8. Not one posted comment talks about the realities behind these negociations. If you care to be well informed read both sides of the debate, then draw a conclusion. Don’t measure all unions using the same ruler, just as you wouldn’t qualify all your co-workers and managers of having the same caliber of performance. HERE ARE 2 QUOTES TO HELP SUMMARIZE WHAT BOTH SIDES ARE UP AGAINST. Notice that OPSEU wants to deal with workload and quality while the colleges want to offer OPSEU more money to make them look greedy?
    Please note that the College walked away from the table not OPSEU…

    OPSEU QUOTE: ‘The colleges do not want to implement the unanimous recommendations of the Workload Task Force. They’ve responded by exercising their new power to impose terms and conditions
    of employment. This unprecedented move on their part shows a complete disrespect for faculty as professional educators. The imposition of terms and conditions of employment is a severe
    attack on collective bargaining and the improvements we have gained over the past 37 years. In the absence of a negotiated settlement, management can continue to impose any terms or conditions of employment they wish’.

    COLLEGE NEGOCIATORS QUOTE: ‘With its strike vote now completed, Ontario’s 24 colleges are urging the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) representing full-time faculty to return to the bargaining table and work to get a negotiated agreement.

    The colleges have made an offer to faculty that increases salaries by eight per cent over four years and raises the maximum salary to $103,975, ensuring that Ontario college faculty members continue to be the best paid in Canada.