OPSEU/SEFPO disappointed by college employer’s push toward strike vote

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Toronto – The College Employer Council (CEC) has rejected the most recent offer put forth by OPSEU/SEFPO’s faculty bargaining team, pushing staff and students at Ontario’s 24 public colleges closer to a possible strike or lockout.

Union President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says he’s disappointed with today’s turn of events, especially after both parties had signalled a deal was close, following a recent media blackout.

“After many years, and many rounds of negotiating, we’ve developed a mature bargaining relationship by now,” said Thomas. “That’s why it’s so disheartening that this is where the parties have landed. But I remain confident that reaching an agreement is still possible.”

As part of its most recent proposal, the faculty bargaining team proposed voluntary binding arbitration to resolve the labour dispute, which would allow the parties to avoid a strike or lockout and the stress that either option would place on students, faculty and the entire public college system.

Unfortunately, and with no rationale, the CEC would not agree, instead filing a “no-board,” which happens when a deal cannot be reached during conciliation. After it is filed, the parties have 17 days to attempt to reach an agreement before there is a strike, lockout or imposition of terms. The union must also hold a strike vote and gain the majority of members’ support for a strike, should it come to that.

“The past year and a half has been hard enough, and nobody wants a work stoppage,” said OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida. “But it takes two to tango, and if the CEC isn’t willing to reach a deal that respects college faculty, our union will commit to whatever financial resources are needed to support our members and overcome this challenge as well.”

JP Hornick, chair of the faculty bargaining team, says there is no need for this escalation.

“The bargaining team has presented extremely low-cost, reasonable proposals that showed they had listened to the employer’s concerns with previous proposals,” said Hornick. “These proposals support quality education, support students and communities, and are a path to a settlement with no escalation or labour disruption.”

The team’s proposal was not a “bottom-line offer,” and the team remains willing to bargain, Hornick added.

Thomas hopes everyone takes a step back and gets an agreement that appears close.

“We’re here to help, and in the coming days, I encourage our faculty bargaining team to make use of all the expertise that OPSEU/SEFPO has to offer,” said Thomas. “And I’m asking that the CEC return to the table in good faith; to cross the t’s and dot the i’s so that we can reach a fair deal for all.

Now’s the time to focus on reaching a deal that is good for faculty and students, and addresses equity matters including dismantling anti-Black racism and creating equal opportunities for Indigenous and racialized faculty and students.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas 613-329-1931;