Faculty set to strike at Ontario’s colleges

Lawmakers and college presidents have been trying to strike a deal for more than a year A strike by about 13,000 faculty and support staff could soon begin at Ontario’s 24 public colleges if…

Faculty set to strike at Ontario's colleges

Lawmakers and college presidents have been trying to strike a deal for more than a year

A strike by about 13,000 faculty and support staff could soon begin at Ontario’s 24 public colleges if they cannot reach a labour settlement by Wednesday.

Lawmakers and college presidents have been trying to strike a deal for more than a year, but the two sides have been unable to reach an agreement, notes the Ontario Federation of Labour, which represents most of the striking faculty.

The education ministry was unavailable for comment, a spokesman for the college minister, Tracy MacCharles, said by email.

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The ballots were to be mailed out on Tuesday, but the union’s board of directors said late Monday the union had declared the strikes imminent because there was still no agreement.

“We wanted to give (college presidents) enough time to get in touch with their provosts (chancellors) to encourage them to reach a settlement and talk more,” Jan O’Grady, president of CUPE Ontario, said in a conference call Monday.

Professors are making raises of between 2.5 per cent and 3.5 per cent, she said.

The union also wants a single contract that covers all 20,000 unionized faculty at Ontario’s publicly-funded colleges. The Ontario colleges, which have run job action against 10 bargaining units for almost two years, currently have four of those job action “pattern bargaining” agreements in place.

There are about 30 different collective agreements at the college level and O’Grady said many of them have a “bargaining lite” clause allowing the college to unilaterally change a collective agreement as long as 30 days notice is given.

The colleges have about 32,000 full-time faculty and approximately 33,000 part-time faculty, although the union has stressed that most of its members are not full-time.

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If a strike is called, “course cancellations will occur and students will be given an advanced notice of the dates,” the union said in a statement.

The union has said it will only go ahead with a strike if talks break down, but O’Grady said the government and colleges should have been calling for a deal all along.

“We’ve been hoping for a deal here for a long time. Everybody wants to avoid a job action and a strike. To us it’s really up to both sides,” she said.

She said the college leaders, “have been ignoring their obligation of protecting their students.”

Faculty are asking the colleges to stop privatizing programs and report salaries, including executives’ salaries, to Parliament. They also want professors to have final say on their contracts, rather than the colleges setting the salary levels.

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