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College arbitration award could have been reached at the bargaining table: OPSEU

OPSEU College Faculty - collegefaculty.org

Toronto – An arbitration award to create a new collective agreement for more than 12,000 Ontario college faculty could have been reached at the bargaining table – and without the five-week strike that began October 16 – if the colleges had displayed “even the slightest” concern for students and staff during negotiations, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) says.

“Today’s award from arbitrator William Kaplan could have been bargained between the colleges and faculty a long time ago,” said JP Hornick, chair of the OPSEU college faculty bargaining team. “With any reasonable amount of cooperation from the colleges, there would never have been a strike, students would not have had to worry about losing their semester, and faculty would never have lost five weeks’ pay.

“It is clear now that college faculty are the ones willing to stand up for the positive changes our system needs by standing strong in solidarity,” she said. “Faculty are the real leaders trying to improve the college system, and I am immensely proud that we stood up for fairness for all faculty and a higher quality of education for our students.”

The arbitrator’s award includes contract language on “academic freedom” that will now allow faculty to speak freely about academic issues without fear of reprisal. The issue had been a major sticking point in the talks both before and during the strike that ended November 19 when the province legislated faculty back to work. The award also includes improved job security for partial-load and full-time faculty and a new government-run task force that will make recommendations on faculty complement, precarious work, college funding, student success, and governance issues.

“Throughout bargaining, which began in July, the College Employer Council had ample opportunity to bargain a deal,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Instead, Council let the strike occur and then prolonged it for two weeks with an unnecessary ‘final offer’ vote that had no chance of leading to a settlement.

“The colleges are Crown agencies and the government could have – and should have – stepped in and forced them to bargain,” he said. “It is too late to prevent the strike, but it is not too late for the government to step in and change the leadership on the Council, and I urge Premier Kathleen Wynne and Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews to do so."

For more information: Nicole Zwiers, vice-chair, college faculty bargaining team, 905-391-8149; Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931; Mona Chevalier, OPSEU college faculty bargaining team (French only), 613-606-2238