OPSEU Local 138 president at St. Clair College Bernie Nawrocki, far left, speaks with picketing faculty at the main Windsor campus, November 8, 2017. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

Voting Begins For Striking St. Clair College Faculty

An imposed vote with the aim of ending the strike by college faculty begins Tuesday morning.

Faculty at all 24 of Ontario’s colleges, including St. Clair College in Windsor and Chatham, are being asked to vote on a proposed settlement.  If it passes, it will end the walkout.

About 12,000 members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) are on the picket line, and half a million college students across Ontario are affected.

The faculty walked off the job on October 16 over wages, job security and input into academic decisions.

The two sides had returned to the bargaining table last week with the hope of reaching an agreement. Each side had proposed an agreement, only to have it rejected by the other side. The Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) stepped in, and ordered a faculty vote on the latest offer by the College Employee Council, which represents the colleges.

The strike is having a profound effect on those at St. Clair College.  Students fear lost classroom time will affect their ability to find employment in their field upon graduation. There have also been concerns about rising costs pertaining to housing and lost tuition.

Bernie Nawrocki, the president of OPSEU Local 138, which represents St. Clair College faculty, told BlackburnNewsWindsor.com Wednesday that an imposed vote was not what they had in mind.

“We would have rather had both teams remain at the table and bang out an offer,” said Nawrocki. “Obviously that didn’t occur, and we’re a little disappointed that the council waited until now to bring their offer to us because they had that opportunity all along.”

Because of the loss of over four weeks’ worth of classroom instruction, St. Clair College announced plans to extend the fall semester by one week ending December 22. The usual three-week holiday break is cut to one week, and the fall semester will resume right after New Year’s. The winter 2018 semester would be delayed and would run 14 weeks once it begins.

The vote, conducted by telephone and online, is set to open at 9am Tuesday and continue until 10am Thursday. Union members were to receive an email explaining voting instructions.

A website has been set up explaining the vote, and providing the latest offers from both the union and the College Employer Council. It provides voting information and answers frequently-asked questions about the process. The website is www.collegevote.ca.