(File photo courtesy of Alvimann via morgueFile)

Faculty Union Rejects Colleges’ Final Offer, Issues Strike Deadline

Classes at Ontario’s public colleges may be cancelled next week, after talks broke down between the college faculty union and the colleges’ bargaining team.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) rejected the colleges’ final offer on Tuesday and issued a strike deadline of October 16 at 12:01am. A strike has the potential to impact students at all 24 public colleges in the province, including St. Clair College, Lambton College and Fanshawe College.

“The purpose of setting a strike deadline is to get negotiations moving – before it’s too late,” said JP Hornick, chair of the union bargaining team, in a news release.

While the colleges’ bargaining team said the final offer invests in faculty and addresses union demands, the union refutes that, stating the colleges are refusing to consider key faculty issues.

“Unfortunately our employer is not moving forward on the issues faculty care about most – even in the case of no-cost items like academic freedom or longer contracts for contract faculty,” said Hornick.

Highlights of the colleges’ final offer included a 7.75% wage increase over four years, improved parental and pregnancy leave provisions, more flexibility to work overtime if faculty chooses, and giving faculty more discretion over individual course workload.

Sonia Del Missier, chair of the colleges’ bargaining team, said they feel the offer is fair to faculty.

“Unfortunately, the OPSEU academic team continues to choose the path toward an unnecessary strike that would be a terrible outcome for our students,” she said. “We are asking the union to let faculty decide by putting the colleges’ final offer to a vote and avoid a strike.”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said he is urging the bargaining team “to get back to the table and not wait until the last minute to negotiate.”

“Students already have enough to worry about with their courses and exams and tuition fees,” he said. “They don’t need the stress and anxiety of not knowing if they will be in class next week. I encourage the colleges to get down to business now.”

The union has said key bargaining issues relate to education quality and the ongoing “exploitation of contract faculty.”

OPSEU represents more than 12,000 professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians at the province’s colleges. Their collective agreement expired on September 30.