Chief Executive Officer
College Employer Council
On March 2, 2022, academic employees who OPSEU/SEFPO represents, who work at Ontario’s 24 public colleges, began Phase 3 of the work-to-rule campaign. This is part of a legal strike action pursuant to the College Collective Bargaining Act (CCBA). The implementation of Phase 3 follows membership’s rejection of the College Employer Council’s forced offer vote on February 18, 2022.
As part of Phase 3, our members will assert their discretion to use their knowledge and expertise to determine the most effective mode of delivering courses and services, based on what is best for the course and students. They will determine how to best deliver courses assigned–including those classes scheduled for a return to physical classrooms, and whether online courses should be taught asynchronously or synchronously. They will refuse to teach online and in-class simultaneously. They will not consent to having their classes recorded and posted on the college Learning Management Systems.
Any direction from college employers to our members to act contrary to Phase 3 of the work-to-rule campaign is a demand to perform struck work and effectively cross the picket line. Any such demand interferes with our members’ lawful right to engage in strike activity.
Since the implementation of Phase 3, management at several colleges have asserted their own definition of “struck work” to exclude circumstances where our members use their discretion to determine the appropriate mode of delivering a course or service. We understand that the employer is considering discipline or other reprisal against members who do not cede to the employer’s demands to implement a particular mode of delivery.
OPSEU/SEFPO will not tolerate the employer’s unlawful attempts to intimidate, threaten or penalize our members who participate in Phase 3 of the work-to-rule strike activity. I demand that you take all necessary steps to ensure each of the colleges end these harmful intimidation tactics. If you fail to do so, our union will take any, and all, appropriate steps to protect our members, including pursuing further unfair labour practice applications at the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
More importantly, I encourage the CEC to return to the bargaining table and end this labour dispute. Our members have spoken in rejecting the CEC’s forced offer. It is time for the parties to find a solution.
We remain confident that the best deal can be reached through continued negotiations. If the CEC continues to refuse to engage with our bargaining team, it should accept our offer to resolve this impasse through voluntary binding interest arbitration. The CEC’s rhetoric that it is a system that simply “splits the difference” misrepresents how the system works.
As you likely know, interest arbitration has been the normative model in Ontario – and in particular the post-secondary sector — for breaking impasses in bargaining through arbitration. These parties have used it on several previous occasions. It is directly incorporated into some collective agreements within the post-secondary sector, such as Ryerson University and the Ontario College of Art and Design University. Even when governments have ended post-secondary strikes through legislation – action to which we object because of its interference in the right to free collective bargaining pursuant to the Charter – they have imposed binding interest arbitration as the model for resolving outstanding disputes. To the contrary, the final offer selection model mentioned in the CEC’s marketing material has been nearly universally rejected as an effective means of resolving labour disputes. The proposal is designed for rejection.
I trust that you will ensure that management at the colleges cease their intimation tactics and rhetoric, and that we all refocus on bringing an end to this dispute.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas