Union re­jects of­fer

Work stop­page at Ge­or­gian Col­lege ‘looks fairly likely,’ union says; strike dead­line Mon­day

Packet & Times (Orillia) - - FRONT PAGE - BOB BRU­TON

Ge­or­gian classes could be quiet Oct. 16 after the col­lege’s fac­ulty union re­jected the lat­est of­fer for a new con­tract.

Tues­day evening, the On­tario Pub­lic Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees Union (OPSEU) is­sued a strike dead­line of 12:01 a.m. Mon­day.

The Col­lege Em­ployer Coun­cil, bar­gain­ing agent for 24 On­tario col­leges ne­go­ti­at­ing col­lec­tive agree­ments with union­ized staff, said its last con­tract of­fer is fi­nal.

Don Sin­clair, coun­cil CEO, said Wednesday there were no talks sched­uled be­fore mid­night Sun­day.

“Not sched­uled. We’re here. We haven’t walked away from the ta­ble. We’re here,” he said. “The like­li­hood of a work stop­page, at this present time, looks fairly likely.”

Kevin MacKay, a mem­ber of OPSEU’s pro­vin­cial bar­gain­ing team, also said the door re­mains open.

“We have flat-out said we’re will­ing to meet and want­ing to meet. We haven’t yet heard any­thing def­i­nite from the other side,” he said Wednesday. “But I think the pos­si­bil­ity of fu­ture bar­gain­ing is there. That’s def­i­nitely what we want to have hap­pen.”

The col­lec­tive agree­ment for col­lege fac­ulty ex­pired Sept. 30, 2017. Union mem­bers in­clude full-time per­ma­nent and par­tial-load con­tract fac­ulty who teach seven to 12 hours a week.

A strike would af­fect tens of thou­sands of stu­dents at On­tario’s pub­lic col­leges. Ge­or­gian Col­lege has 11,000 full-time do­mes­tic stu­dents and 1,500 in­ter­na­tional stu­dents at seven On­tario cam­puses – in­clud­ing Bar­rie, Oril­lia and Colling­wood.

OPSEU has said key con­tract is­sues in­clude giv­ing fac­ulty and stu­dents more voice in aca­demic de­ci­sions and what the union calls the ‘on­go­ing ex­ploita­tion of con­tract fac­ulty’.

The pos­si­bil­ity of a strike has es­ca­lated dur­ing the last few days.

Col­lege fac­ulty re­turned to the bar­gain­ing ta­ble Tues­day morn­ing, OPSEU said, ready to ne­go­ti­ate.

But the Col­lege Em­ployer Coun­cil tabled an of­fer that did not ad­dress any of fac­ulty’s key de­mands, said OPSEU — so the of­fer could not be rec­om­mended to the union’s mem­bers.

OPSEU said the coun­cil has walked away from the ta­ble, claim­ing its of­fer is the fi­nal one.

The coun­cil said OPSEU re­jected the col­leges’ fi­nal of­fer of set­tle­ment and has in­stead given no­tice that a strike will be­gin Oct. 16.

The coun­cil also said the col­leges’ fi­nal of­fer is com­pa­ra­ble to, or bet­ter than, of­fers ac­cepted re­cently by other pub­lic-sec­tor em­ploy­ees, such as teach­ers, pub­lic ser­vants and col­lege sup­port staff.

The of­fer in­cludes a 7.75% salary in­crease dur­ing the next four years, a new full-time fac­ulty maximum salary of $115,378, im­proved con­ver­sion of con­tract fac­ulty to full-time po­si­tions, more fac­ulty au­ton­omy con­cern­ing per­sonal work­load and en­hanced ben­e­fits.

Sin­clair con­firmed Wednesday that this is the fi­nal of­fer.

“We’re $400 mil­lion apart (an­nu­ally). They (OPSEU) haven’t moved since Sept. 27,” he said, not­ing the of­fer made is fair.

But MacKay, a so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at Mo­hawk Col­lege in Hamil­ton, said that num­ber is dated, from when OPSEU wanted a 70%/30% split in full-time/ part-time fac­ulty. The union is now ask­ing for a 50%/50% split.

He did ac­knowl­edge that the Fair Work­places, Bet­ter Jobs Act of 2017 (Bill 148) and hir­ing more full-time fac­ulty will cost the col­leges money.

But some of OPSEU’s big­gest de­mands, such as aca­demic free­dom for fac­ulty, cost noth­ing, MacKay said. Nor does job se­cu­rity for con­tract fac­ulty.

“I think what’s been frus­trat­ing for us is there are no-cost items that we think could be the ba­sis of a set­tle­ment, that they sim­ply refuse to en­ter­tain,” he said. “And that’s un­for­tu­nate.”

MacKay also said Wednesday he’s not con­vinced the coun­cil’s of­fer is carved in stone.

“Let’s say we’d be sur­prised if it is their fi­nal of­fer. And I say that be­cause in re­ally im­por­tant ways, this is ac­tu­ally a much worse of­fer than the one that was tabled be­fore, in Au­gust,” he said.

“What seems a lit­tle bit con­fus­ing to us is it seems like coun­cil has been mov­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion that you’d ex­pect if they were mov­ing to­ward a set­tle­ment. So I don’t think that that’s their fi­nal po­si­tion.

“Hav­ing said that, I can’t read their minds that way,” MacKay said.

The Oct. 15 date was is­sued after fac­ulty rep­re­sented by OPSEU re­quested a ‘no-board’ re­port.

Un­der the rules set out in the Col­leges Col­lec­tive Bar­gain­ing Act, the union is re­quired to give five days’ no­tice prior to going on strike, and the Col­lege Em­ployer Coun­cil must give five days’ no­tice of a lock­out.

OPSEU Lo­cal 350 rep­re­sents 278 full-time fac­ulty and 299 par­tial load fac­ulty at Ge­or­gian Col­lege’s seven cam­puses. An ad­di­tional 368 fac­ulty mem­bers teach on a part­time ba­sis and are not mem­bers of the fac­ulty union. Num­bers change ev­ery se­mes­ter, how­ever, es­pe­cially non-full-time fac­ulty.

MARK WANZEL/SPE­CIAL TO POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Ge­or­gian Col­lege's fac­ulty union has re­jected the lat­est of­fer for a new con­tract.

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