College faculty hand bargaining team strike mandate
TORONTO – OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says a strike mandate shows the union’s college faculty members want a collective agreement reached at the bargaining table.
OPSEU/SEFPO’s faculty members vote 59 per cent in favour of job action to back contract demands in a strike vote that was supervised by the provincial Ministry of Labour.
“Our members are sending a clear message that they want to see a negotiated settlement,” Thomas said. “I’m sure an agreement is in reach, so let’s get back to the bargaining table and get it.”
Some 15,000 college faculty have been without a contract since September 30. Talks with the College Employer Council (CEC), which represents Ontario college employers, began in July. Management refused to negotiate during conciliation and could force a vote on a CEC offer, which is an option as part of the process.
Bargaining Team Chair JP Hornick said faculty members voted on demands that would support students and provide more stability for contract partial-load faculty, noting management had maintained they would never agree to them.
“I hope this strike vote will be the CEC’s incentive to start negotiating for real,” Hornick added. “All of faculty’s demands are extremely low- or no-cost to the employer. Due to Bill 124, we’re not bargaining compensation. So our focus is on what’s needed to support students in classrooms and online, and on their mental health and academic needs.”
The faculty bargaining team has also offered to work under the existing contract with no threat of strike if the CEC agrees to not lock out or try to bypass the bargaining table. The CEC has yet to respond. However, it is threatening to impose terms and conditions.
“This strike vote should be a wakeup call for the CEC,” said OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida. “The membership is behind the team in defending workplace rights. Let’s resolve this through constructive dialogue.”
Thomas says it’s time to take a step back and avoid disrupting students’ education.
“The way forward lies in a willingness to negotiate a contract at the bargaining table,” said Thomas. “Let’s take a deep breath, roll up our sleeves and get a deal.”