With a strike vote just a week away, divisions among college faculty are beginning to surface. William Tenant, a business professor at St. Lawrence College, is calling on his colleagues to vote against a work stoppage.
Negotiations between the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, and the colleges broke down last month, after initially breaking down in November. If faculty vote to strike on Jan 13, the earliest they could walk is Jan 18. The OPSEU represents 9,000 faculty at 24 colleges. A strike would leave the semester in limbo for 500, 000 students.
Responding via email, Tennant says he is urging college professors to vote no because strikes are “disruptive to our students” which is “our reason for being.”
He points to what he says is the failure of previous strikes in 1984, 1989 and 2006. At his website, stopthestrike.net, Tennant summarizes each work stoppage as following a similar trajectory:
College teachers gave weak support to the negotiating team for a strike; Management didn’t budge; Teachers went on strike; Management didn’t budge; Provincial Government passed legislation ordering teachers back to work followed by Binding Arbitration.
There has been little discussion between the union and the colleges since December. Today, the OPSEU released a number of documents outlining why faculty should vote to strike.
Near the top of the union’s concerns is that the colleges in November unilaterally imposed terms and conditions of employment, a power granted by the province in 2008. The union says that under the terms imposed by the colleges, workloads will increase, and that in three years, “College faculty salaries will fall below high school teacher levels.”
According to OPSEU, previous strikes were successful at ensuring workload limits, and, as such were ultimately beneficial to students. One union document says, “Faculty’s working conditions are students’ learning conditions.”
Tennant says that unlike in 2006 when faculty were on strike for three weeks, this year it could last for much longer, suggesting that the province might be reluctant to legislate faculty back to work. “The Ontario Government is $25 billion in deficit. A number of colleges are in deficit. A strike would help their finances.”
In his campaign to stop his colleagues from giving the union a mandate to strike, Tennant still has a long way to go. So far only between 20 and 30 college professors have given him explicit support.
Related: Another year, another strike