Faculty members on strike at Fanshawe College, November 10, 2017. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

Faculty To Begin Voting On College Offer

The union representative for Fanshawe College’s striking faculty believes members will heed union advice to reject the schools’ latest contract offer.

Darryl Bedford says there has been an overwhelming response from the 12,000 college instructors, counselors, and librarians at Ontario’s 24 public colleges indicating their intent to vote no to the College Employer Council’s offer.

“We are hearing this via email, from calls all across the province at 24 colleges, and at a meeting that was held in London last Thursday,” said Bedford, OPSEU bargaining team member and Fanshawe College information technology instructor. “People are not fooled by what the College Employer Council is putting out. They are reading the actual contract language.”

Voting on the offer begins online and over the phone Tuesday morning. It will continue through Thursday.

The council sidestepped the union bargaining team by asking the Ontario Labour Relations Board to take the college’s final offer directly to rank-and-file members after talks between the two sides broke down a week ago. The union is urging its members to reject the offer.

“In the union’s view that offer includes concessions that our members should not accept,” said Bedford. “We are telling our members they don’t have to take our word for it, read the actual offer and I think when they do they will see that there is very little in the offer for them… they will realize that these are concessions that they cannot accept.”

The council has offered enhanced full-time employment opportunities and rights for contract faculty and a 7.75% pay increase over four years, but failed to bend on new contract language around academic freedom. The union has stated the language would give faculty greater say in how courses are delivered and evaluated.

On Monday, the council launched a new website aimed at providing the striking workers with more information about what is in the contract offer.

“We know that faculty are looking for straight forward information that tells them exactly what is in the offer and what happens if the offer is accepted or if it is rejected,” said Council Bargaining Chair Sonia Del Missier in a statement. “We are launching this site in response to the union’s continued misrepresentation of the offer being voted on by faculty.

This is week five of the strike that sent faculty onto the picket line and cancelled classes for more than half a million students across the province. If faculty vote in favour of the council’s offer it would bring a speedy end to the job action. If they reject the settlement, the strike will continue.

“There is nothing stopping the parties from coming together, negotiating and getting an agreement fairly quickly and getting everyone back to work,” said Bedford.

Fanshawe students were issued a letter last Friday reassuring them that the fall term has not been cancelled and that plans are in the works to extend the semester up to December 22 and likely into January 2018.

No Ontario college student has ever lost their semester because of a strike. However, previous strikes at the province’s colleges, in 1984, 1989, and 2006, were resolved in about three weeks.