On Campus

When negotiations break down

College faculty union braces for vote on final offer before strike deadline

With the strike deadline pushed back to Feb. 17 from Feb. 11, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union says they are looking for binding arbitration in negotiations with Ontario’s colleges that broke down in December. Faculty gave the union strike mandate in a Jan 13 vote.

The union, which represents 9,00 0 faculty members from 24 Ontario colleges, has urged its members to reject the college’s final offer that is being brought to vote by management on Feb 10, under the auspices of the Ontario Labour Relations Board. OPSEU’s bargaining team had refused to bring the proposal to faculty itself.

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While representatives on either side post new fact sheets and updates almost daily, it clouds the facts and arguments debated at the bargaining table.

As it stands, the union’s most recent proposal for settlement asks for the following:

– 7.5 per cent salary increase over three years for all faculty

– increased job security by limiting external contracts

– workload considerations and protections for full-time faculty, including additional paid time for preparation, special circumstances and out-of-class assistance for students

– increases in health and insurance plans

Most of these provisions follow quoted recommendations from the workload task force, that assessed workload concerns following the 2006 Ontario colleges strike. As part of their new contract, OPSEU is asking that these recommendations come into fruition, as they argue they have yet to be addressed.

A week after the union proposed this contract proposal, the colleges tabled their final offer, which includes:

– 5.75 per cent salary increase over three years

– Additional time allotments for out-of-class assistance for teachers with an excess of 260 students

– Maintains previous workload agreements, with some adjustments

The colleges bargaining team maintains that many of the recommendations made by the task force have been implemented to date, but the colleges final offer does address and accept several of the proposed updates and changes to workload, health, safety and grievances.

Meanwhile, as faculty wait to vote on this final offer for settlement, OPSEU has posted several new fact sheets outlining reasons faculty should vote “no” on the most recent offer. These reasons include a salary increase they say is “less than what high school teachers and other Ontario post-secondary teachers were given,” and that the offer “ignores the Task Force’s key recommendations.”

Ultimately, the fact sheets read as propaganda, and while the union leaders have the right to spread whatever message they want to their members, in order to achieve a settlement, avoid a strike, and have a fair and informed vote on the most recent offer allowing faculty to decide if the deal works for them, they need all the facts. And not the ones that make OPSEU look like warriors and the colleges look like bloodsuckers.