College faculty union seeks strike vote in September

Ontario colleges offer 7.5% pay increase over four years

Story updated Aug. 21

Colleges across Ontario, including George Brown, face the possibility of a full-blown strike by faculty at the end of September.

The union that represents full and partial-load faculty, librarians and counsellors, could be in a strike position this fall, if an agreement is not reached with Ontario’s 24 colleges.

On Aug. 3 the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)  asked the Ontario Labour Relations Board to schedule a strike vote in September.

The current contract for faculty expires on Sept. 30.

The last strike by college faculty in 2006 shut down classes and lasted for three weeks.

Faculty are being offered a 7.5 per cent wage increase over four years, a similar increase to the one union leadership is endorsing for the college support staff it represents.

“We feel this is a very fair offer of settlement in line with other offers that have been accepted, most recently by the support staff,” said Sonia del Missier, who is leading the colleges’ negotiating team.

The union representing support staff have come to an agreement to extend their current contract with Ontario colleges. The deal will be voted on by members on Aug. 29.

Janice Hagan, chair of the provincial support staff division of  OPSEU, said that the union will be recommending that their members accept the offer, which includes, “a very nice increase in pay and nice benefits for our members.”

For JP Hornick, a negotiator for the faculty union and a George Brown professor, the main issues for this round of bargaining are not wages and benefits but rather ensuring the college system is working.

“We’re teachers first, we’re educators,” she said. “We’re not trying to say the colleges’ financial decisions need to be done this way, we’re trying to say the college’s academic decisions need to be done in a way that benefits students and are pedagogically sound.”

One issue is the ratio of full-time instructors to part-time faculty. According to the union across the college system 70 per cent of faculty are part-time with only 30 per cent in more secure full-times jobs. 

“Partial load” instructors are part of the union but part-time faculty are not- although OPSEU is running an organizing campaign to try to unionize them. 

Hornick said that increasingly casual labour in the college system is affecting the quality of education for students.

“In post-secondary this is fundamentally about what kind of education students want, who do they want to have in their classrooms,” she said. “So if you have folks that are (casual), that don’t have job security, these are the things that make education high quality or not.”

Del Missier said that the offer the colleges have presented faculty is fair, and that what the union is proposing doesn’t “form the foundation on which a settlement can be reached.”

They go back to the negotiating table Aug. 22.


College faculty union seeks strike vote in September