Faculty union reaches deal with Ontario colleges

Details of agreement to remain secret until ratification vote

Tom Tomassi, president of the faculty local at George Brown College, speaks to members at a BBQ at Casa Loma campus in the summer of 2014. Photo courtesy OPSEU.

Tom Tomassi, president of the faculty local at George Brown College, speaks to members at a BBQ at Casa Loma campus in the summer of 2014. Photo courtesy OPSEU.

The union representing 12,000 faculty members at Ontario’s 24 colleges reached a tentative agreement with the College Employer Council on Friday, Aug. 29, two days before their contract was to expire.

“This has been a productive round of negotiations, and I cannot say enough about the quality of the bargaining team and how they represent their members,” said Mark Kotanen, a negotiator with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). “It was done right – with attention both to the details and the larger issues.”

“College faculty first and foremost are here for the students. And we believe this tentative agreement reflects that,” said Kotanen.

The proposed contract is for three years ending on Sept. 30, 2017 and will see unspecified wage increases in each year. According to press releases from OPSEU and the College Employer Council, the details of the agreement will not be released until after the member ratification vote, which is expected on Sept. 23.

The agreement comes after a conciliator from the Ministry of Labour was called in to help both sides strike a deal. At the request of the conciliator a media blackout had been in effect since Aug. 21.

“We are very pleased to have reached this agreement ahead of the contract expiry of August 31, as we welcome hundreds of thousands of students to our campuses across the province next week,” said Sonia Del Missier, chair of the colleges’ bargaining team. “This agreement continues to recognize the value we place in our faculty while respecting the financial challenges facing the sector.”

The previous collective agreement with college faculty members was a two-year contract that included an absolute wage freeze. In the current round of bargaining, the union identified job security, workload and academic authority as priority issues for partial-load and full-time faculty.

“I want to congratulate college faculty on negotiating a tentative contract that helps to protect and enshrine quality education for students,” said OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

In a recent tentative agreement with college support staff, also represented by OPSEU, the workers got increases below inflation in a four-year deal of one per cent in the first and second years, and 0.5 per cent in the third and fourth years along with one per cent lump sum payments in those years.

“This tentative agreement between the College Employer Council and OPSEU academic staff couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Matt Stewart, president of the College Student Alliance (CSA).“Students are now able to start classes without fear of a work
stoppage during the semester.”

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Faculty union reaches deal with Ontario colleges