Negotiations between Ontario colleges and faculty have broken off, and a strike vote is planned for January 13, it was announced today.
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Talks initially broke down in early November when the College Compensation and Appointments Council imposed a contract on faculty. The Appointments Council represents all 24 community colleges in Ontario and negotiates on their behalf as a block. Provincial legislation permits college management to unilaterally draw up an agreement when negotiations stall. This power does not necessarily preclude renewing negotiations.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), representing 9,000 faculty at the 24 community colleges, wants greater commitments on workloads and educational quality. The union also wants academic freedom to be protected in colleges the way it is in universities. While OPSEU insists wages are not the issue, management says OPSEU’s initial offer was unaffordable. The union wants wage increases of 2.5 per cent a year for the life of the contract, which is three years.
Negotiations had previously resumed on November 30, but did not continue. Discussions resumed again this past Monday.
In a media release, the colleges say that the union’s demands would cost an additional $218 million and would “significantly impact on the delivery of academic programs and college governance.” Rachael Donovan, chair of the colleges’ bargaining team, says “We had hoped the union would bring its positions in line with the current economic environment and the four recommendations of the Joint Workload Taskforce Report. This did not happen.”
The Joint Task Force made recommendations regarding flexibility in workload, evaluation of faculty, out of class assistance for students, and professionals standards and relationships. The recommendations were made jointly by the colleges and the union after an 18 day strike in 2006.
Ted Montgomery, chair of OPSEU’s bargaining team, says management has distorted the financial costs of their demands. “We have tabled an offer that is affordable and which should have been acceptable,” Montgomery said.
If college faculty vote to strike, the earliest they could walk off the job is January 18. Some 500, 000 students could have their school year interrupted.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to correct for the number of college students. It was previously stated that there were 200,000 college students in Ontario. The correct number is 500,000 comprising of 350,000 full time students and 150,000 part time students.