Fac­ulty union re­jects fi­nal of­fer

Kingston Whig-Standard - - NEWS - JU­LIA MCKAY jm­ckay@postmedia.com

Stu­dents at­tend­ing the 24 col­leges across On­tario, in­clud­ing those at St. Lawrence Col­lege, may be fac­ing an early break in their stud­ies next week if the fac­ulty union and the Col­lege Em­ployer Coun­cil don’t go back to the ta­ble.

On Tues­day evening, On­tario Public Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees Union (OPSEU), which rep­re­sents fac­ulty across the prov­ince, re­jected the Col­lege Em­ployer Coun­cil’s fi­nal of­fer of set­tle­ment and gave its no­tice of in­tent to strike.

If both sides don’t re­turn to the ta­ble, the strike could be­gin Oct. 16, at 12:01 a.m.

“To­day was an­other frus­trat­ing day of bar­gain­ing, dur­ing which our em­ployer once again re­fused to con­sider key fac­ulty is­sues. They have walked away from the ta­ble,” JP Hor­nick, chair of the union bar­gain­ing team, said in a news re­lease Tues­day night. “The pur­pose of set­ting a strike dead­line is to get ne­go­ti­a­tions mov­ing — be­fore it’s too late.”

“Our fi­nal of­fer is re­spon­sive to what we have heard at the bar­gain­ing ta­ble and fair to our fac­ulty,” So­nia Del Missier, chair of col­leges’ bar­gain­ing team, said in a sep­a­rate news re­lease Tues­day night. “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.”

St. Lawrence Col­lege pres­i­dent Glenn Volle­bregt said in a tele­phone in­ter­view Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon that he re­mains “op­ti­mistic that a ne­go­ti­ated set­tle­ment will be reached and a work stop­page will be avoided.”

“There’s no ques­tion that I’m dis­ap­pointed that the union re­jected the col­leges’ lat­est of­fer and I’m con­cerned about the im­pact on our stu­dents and the fact that a strike will be dis­rup­tive to their stud­ies, but I am still hope­ful that the col­leges and union will get back to the ta­ble for a set­tle­ment and the strike can be averted,” Volle­bregt said.

He went on to ex­plain that if a strike were to take place, a con­tin­gency plan is ready to be put in place for all three St. Lawrence cam­puses.

“In the event of a strike, all our full­time pro­gram­ming and classes will be can­celled,” Vol­leg­bregt said.

The St. Lawrence Col­lege cam­pus fa­cil­i­ties will re­main open, so stu­dents will have ac­cess to com­puter labs, res­i­dences, fit­ness fa­cil­i­ties and stu­dent govern­ment of­fices.

“I would en­cour­age that if the strike does hap­pen, that our stu­dents re­main fo­cused on their stud­ies and so forth,” Vol­leg­bregt said.

While field trips and ap­pren­tice­ships will be sus­pended or can­celled, Con­tin­u­ing Ed­u­ca­tion classes will con­tinue.

“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 rep­re­sents more than 12,000 pro­fes­sors, in­struc­tors, coun­sel­lors and li­brar­i­ans work­ing at 24 public col­leges across the prov­ince.

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