Faculty will not suspend strike until colleges make offer union can recommend, says union bargaining chair
Story updated with vote date and comment from the colleges at 1:18 p.m.
The College Employer Council has asked the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) to schedule a forced vote on the colleges’ last offer.
College faculty at 24 Ontario colleges have been on strike since Oct. 16 cancelling classes for 300,000 students.
According to a release from the College Employer Council, the vote will be electronic and take place from Nov. 14 to 16. During this time, the colleges are requesting that the union suspend the strike so faculty and students can return to class.
“The colleges remain at the table, but we can’t just rely on bargaining to resolve the strike – and our students can’t wait. The faculty vote is another path to end the strike if bargaining is not successful,” said Sonia Del Missier, chair of the colleges’ bargaining team in a release.
JP Hornick, chair of the Ontario Public Service Employee Union (OPSEU) faculty bargaining team, rejected this request and said the colleges should return to the bargaining table instead.
“If they bring us an offer that we can recommend to our members, which we were very, very close to when they did this, then we would suspend the strike immediately,” said Hornick.
Hornick said they were down to a single issue, that of academic freedom for college faculty, when the College Employer Council asked for the forced vote.
“I’m angry and disappointed that instead of continuing negotiations council has decided to walk away.” said Hornick “What I’m feeling right now is that they have done something that is reprehensible for students.”
“The easiest thing would be to come back to the table, finish bargaining that we started and then everyone can return to work quickly.” said Hornick “They have instead dropped a bomb on this process.”
The College Employer Council said that the union representing striking faculty at Ontario college “refused to accept an offer that addresses their priorities.”
According to a press release, the colleges’ offer included increased pay, greater rights and better job security for contract faculty, as well as faster compliance with Bill 148 and academic freedom policies at each college.
“We are extremely disappointed that OPSEU would not accept an offer of settlement. It is a terrible outcome for students and faculty that OPSEU was unwilling to reach an agreement,” said Del Missier.
While forcing the vote is far from ideal, Del Missier said that the talks aren’t going anywhere.
“An employer vote is never a preferred path, because a settlement should be reached at the bargaining table,” she said. “But we have exhausted all efforts at the bargaining table and now our faculty will decide.”
Anna Willats, a professor at George Brown College, is frustrated with the situation.
“They could have brought this request for a forced vote to the membership two or three weeks ago, but instead they have decided to waste everybody’s time,” she said.
Christian Knudsen, a professor at Sheridan College echoes the sentiment.
“If I would have voted no four weeks ago, four weeks out on the picket line has only hardened my resolve to vote no now.”