College faculty begin voting on new deal today

November 14, 2017 by

Online Vote copyA vote that could end the more than four week-old college strike in Ontario begins today. If the offer is accepted, the College Employer Council says 500,000 students affected by the strike could be back in the classroom as early as next Tuesday.

Ontario's colleges have launched a website that they say will allow the striking faculty members to get a firsthand look at what is in the latest contract offer, before they make their decision.

Talks between the council, which represents the province's 24 colleges, and the OPSEU, which represents the 12,000 striking workers, broke down last week, with the council asking the Ontario Labour Relations Board to schedule a vote on its offer.

After four days of marathon bargaining, the two sides had agreed on the contentious issue of full-time staffing ratios, agreeing to a provincial task force to study the issue, which is included in the offer instructors are to vote on. On salary, the union and colleges were within one-quarter of a per cent.

They could not, however, find common ground on academic freedom, the major sticking point that remains. That has OPSEU union leaders asking members to vote against the deal. They say that they want to return to the bargaining table and work out a new deal there.

Sonia Del Missier, Chair of the colleges' bargaining team, says everything in the offer has been agreed on, except for language surrounding academic freedom.

She is urging the members to accept the deal so that students can get back to class. At that point the colleges will announce how they can make up lost time.

If the vote sees the faculty reject the offer, the likelihood of more drastic repercussions from the job action increases greatly.

The province has hinted that back-to-work legislation could be tabled to end the strike, but Premier Kathleen Wynne has said she and her cabinet minister responsible for colleges, Deb Matthews, would like to avoid that.

The vote will be conducted online and over the phone and will conclude on Thursday.