Union alleges Ontario government’s return-to-work legislation denies rights and freedoms in Charter
As far as the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) is concerned, the fight is not over.
OPSEU, which represents 12,000 Ontario college faculty, has filed a charter challenge over government legislation that ended the five-week strike in November.
The union alleges its “rights and freedoms have been denied” under the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Labour Dispute Resolution Act, also known as Bill 178. When the legislation was passed, the union vowed to fight and the necessary documentation was filed on Jan. 23.
“I’m not convinced we’ll win but I’m not convinced we’ll lose and I like our chances at winning,” said OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas, “I think it’s tilted our way but I’m quite sure the government thinks it’s tilted their way. This is an opportunity to clarify the situation to avoid it in the future.”
In December, a new collective agreement between the union and the College Employer Council, which represents the province’s colleges, was awarded. Thomas explained the union is seeking to have the agreement deemed “expired.”
“The parties would go back to the table to bargain,” said Thomas. “That’s the standard request. I don’t know what we’d get, if we’d get anything.”
The decision gave college faculty members a 7.75 per cent raise over four years. There is also new language on academic freedom, which had been the main outstanding issue between the two sides.
As for any potential impact of the court challenge on students, Thomas said that nothing is likely to be resolved until at least the next school year.