Striking members of Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 110 picket outside of Fanshawe College’s Centre for Digital and Performing Arts in London, October 24, 2017. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

Optimism As College Talks Resume

The union representative for Fanshawe College’s striking faculty is hopeful the strike at Ontario’s 24 public colleges, currently in its third week, will soon end.

For the first time since the start of October, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and the College Employer Council are set to resume negotiations Thursday. While the union had been pushing to get back to the bargaining table for the past 17 days, no new talks were scheduled until a provincial mediator called to the two sides back to the table on Wednesday.

“We’re optimistic [about the talks] but we don’t know what the College Employer Council is going to say,” said Darryl Bedford, who is also a OPSEU bargaining team member and a Fanshawe information technology instructor.

Ontario’s roughly 12,000 college instructors, counselors, and librarians walked off the job on October 16, cancelling classes for more than half a million students. Job security is a key bargaining issue for the union. It is asking for a 50/50 split of full time and contract positions and an increased role in academic decision-making.

Whether the colleges’ bargaining team is softening on the idea remains to be seen, but in a statement posted to its website Wednesday the council chair said “we can reach a settlement quickly and have classes start again early next week.” Up until this point, the council has seemed unwilling to waver from its final offer issued shortly before talks broke off.

Bedford believes the council’s change of heart could be directly related to a union rally and march held in downtown London last week.

“Because their position has been exposed as a fairly unreasonable one. We’ve wanted them to engage in genuine negotiations all along and let’s hope that they do,” said Bedford.

Even though talks are scheduled to resume, a faculty rally planned for Thursday at Queen’s Park will still go ahead as planned, the union has confirmed.

Previous strikes at the province’s colleges, in 1984, 1989, and 2006, were resolved in about three weeks.