More than 12,000 Ontario public college faculty are on strike after talks with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and the College Employer Council failed to reach a tentative agreement.
The strike is affecting 24 Ontario colleges, and more than 220,000 students province-wide.
“On October 14, we presented Council with a streamlined offer that represented what faculty consider to be the bare minimum we need to ensure quality education for students and treat contract faculty fairly,” said JP Hornick, chair of the union bargaining team, in a statement. “We carefully crafted a proposal that responded to Council’s concerns about costs in a fair and reasonable way.”
Hornick said that Council refused to agree on no-cost items, which left the Union with no choice but to withdraw their services. He also said that Council is committed to a “Walmart model of education” based on reducing the role of full-time faculty and exploiting underpaid contract workers who have no job security beyond one semester.
Meanwhile, the Council is calling the strike unnecessary.
“This strike is completely unnecessary and unfair to hundreds of thousands of students,” said Sonia Del Missier of the College Employer Council, who said that there should have been a deal based on the College’s final offer. “The fastest way to resolve the strike is for the union to accept the colleges’ final offer, or, at the very least, put the colleges’ final offer forward to its members for a vote.”
According to the Council, the colleges cannot accept the union’s demands that would ultimately add more than $250 million to annual costs, eliminate thousands of contract faculty jobs, and jeopardize the quality of college programs.
But OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas called the current impasse “regrettable.” He also said that the college faculty have the full backing of the union’s 130,000 members and their $72 million strike fund.
“Our union has a track record of getting deals done without work stoppages,” said Thomas. “Unfortunately, that has not happened in this case. Nonetheless, I encourage the colleges to get back to the table so we can wrap this up swiftly, for the good of students and faculty alike.”