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College faculty union sets strike deadline

Classes at Georgian College could be impacted Oct. 16
File photo. Sue Sgambati/BarrieToday

College faculty represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) have rejected what College Employer Council is calling it's 'final offer.'

The union has set a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. next Monday.

"The employer’s so-called 'final offer' is a poisoned pill. It fundamentally undermines the quality and fairness we have been working towards in this round of bargaining," OPSEU said in a news release issued at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Talks broke down Tuesday after the union says the College walked away from the bargaining table. 

The College says the union rejected the offer and instead gave notice of a strike. 

The College Employer Council said the final offer 'invests in faculty and addresses union demands on benefits, staffing, workload, and faculty autonomy.'

"Our final offer is responsive to what we have heard at the bargaining table and fair to our faculty," said Sonia Del Missier, chair, Colleges' Bargaining Team.

"Unfortunately, the OPSEU Academic team continues to choose the path toward an unnecessary strike that would be a terrible outcome for our students. We are asking the union to let faculty decide by putting the colleges' final offer to a vote and avoid a strike."

The union says the purpose of setting a strike deadline is to get negotiations moving – 'before it’s too late.'

OPSEU represents over 12,000 professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians working at 24 public colleges across Ontario. Union members include full-time permanent and “partial load” contract faculty who teach seven to 12 hours per week.

The labour dispute does not centre on money but job security.

The College's offer includes a 7.75 per cent salary increase over four years, new full-time faculty maximum of $115,378 by Oct. 1, 2020 and new partial-load faculty hourly maximum of $154.26 by Oct. 1, 2020.

The union says the employer has proposed creating an entirely new “temporary full-time” category of contract faculty, paid at the partial load rate.

"This new position has no job security. They could be terminated with only two weeks’ notice," the union states.

“Our union team has been clear about its goals since bargaining began in early July,” Hornick said. “We have put forward concrete proposals to improve education quality by including the voices of faculty and students in academic decisions; we have made the case for strengthening the complement of full-time faculty; and we have called on the colleges to read the signals from Queen’s Park and start treating contract faculty fairly."

“Unfortunately our employer is not moving forward on the issues faculty care about most – even in the case of no-cost items like academic freedom or longer contracts for contract faculty.”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas cautioned the College Employer Council to get back to the table and not wait until the last minute to negotiate.

“Students already have enough to worry about with their courses and exams and tuition fees,” he said. “They don’t need the stress and anxiety of not knowing if they will be in class next week.

“I encourage the colleges to get down to business now.”

The OPSEU strike fund sits at $72 million.

A strike would affect 11,000 full-time domestic and 1,500 international students at Georgian College across seven campuses, the largest being in Barrie.