Colleges believe deal will be reached based on their “final offer”
At a rally in support of college faculty, who are now entering day five of a strike at colleges across Ontario, JP Hornick acknowledged that as an introvert, it’s hellish to give a speech to the assembled workers and students.
If Hornick, who is chair of the faculty bargaining unit, was feeling nervous about speaking, it might not just be the crowds. It could also be because of what she called the historic nature of the strike.
“This is really the first time that you’ve seen 12,000 people get up, vote and then walk on precarious work for their colleagues,” Hornick said.
According to the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents the striking faculty, 81 per cent of teaching at colleges is done by contract faculty. In a release earlier this month, Hornick accused the College Employers Council, who is bargaining on behalf the colleges, of exploiting contract faculty and having a “Walmart model of education.”
“The things that we’re out here for are not about our own wages and benefits,” she said. “But they are about the things that students need in their classrooms and having the resources and ability to be able to support them to succeed.”
For Fred Hahn, Ontario president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the situation with contract workers in the college system is unacceptable. He said that after years of employers offering less at the bargaining table, the faculty strike is about standing up against precarious work.
“This strike is actually moving the goal posts,” Hahn said. “This strike is about demanding something better and frankly the situation of these workers should have all of us demanding better for them.”
According to release from OPSEU, the union is bargaining for an equal ratio of full-time to non-full-time faculty as well as a “legitimate voice for faculty and students in the way our colleges are governed.”
The College Employers Council has said that the union’s proposals would cost an extra $250 million annually.
“Certainly from our side we’re frustrated and disappointed that it’s come to this,” said Peter McKeracher, a bargaining team member for the colleges. “But eventually a deal will be reached and students will be back in class and, in our view, that will be based on our final offer.”
According to the council, their last offer to OPSEU had a 7.75 per cent raise over four years, and “improved conversion of contract faculty to full‐time positions.”
At press time there is no set date for negotiations to resume.