Loom­ing threat of walk­out

On­tario col­lege teach­ers could be out on the picket lines as early as this Monday

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - FRONT PAGE - EMMA MEL­DRUM

The On­tario Pub­lic Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees Union has given no­tice that col­lege teach­ers could be on the picket line as early as Monday.

OPSEU and the Col­lege Em­ployer Coun­cil were back at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble on Tues­day, but a re­lease from the CEC late Tues­day stated the union “re­jected the col­leges’ fi­nal of­fer of set­tle­ment.”

So­nia Del Missier, chair­woman of the col­leges’ bar­gain­ing team, said in the re­lease the fi­nal of­fer was re­spon­sive to what they had heard from fac­ulty.

“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.”

Del Missier spoke to The Daily Press hours be­fore the strike no­tice and said she wanted to re­as­sure stu­dents.

“We don’t want a strike. In the event that there is a strike, col­leges do have con­tin­gency plans in place. We want to re­as­sure stu­dents that in the pre­vi­ous labour dis­rup­tions, stu­dents have not lost any year. There are plans in place to min­i­mize the im­pact on the stu­dents’ ex­pe­ri­ence.”

OPSEU rolled out a provincewide ad cam­paign over the week­end, hop­ing to “ed­u­cate the pub­lic and our stu­dents as well,” said Lad Shaba, OPSEU Lo­cal 653 pres­i­dent and an in­struc­tor at Northern Col­lege.

“We’re hop­ing that (stu­dents) will put pres­sure on the ad­min­is­tra­tion through their stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tions to make sure that there’s a res­o­lu­tion on the ta­ble.”

The mes­sage seemed to have reached­tim­mins’north­ern­col­lege Stu­dent As­so­ci­a­tion, which shared one of the ads on its Facebook page on Sun­day.

“Peo­ple al­ways think it comes down to money,” Shaba said, ar­gu­ing that isn’t the case. The union is con­cerned about the num­ber of con­tract fac­ulty mem­bers and lim­ited abil­ity to make aca­demic de­ci­sions.

Del Missier, chair­woman of the CEC’S bar­gain­ing team, said there are good rea­sons for some fac­ulty be­ing part-time or con­tract.

“The staff are pro­grammed based on the needs of the pro­gram,” Del Missier ex­plained Tues­day. “The ex­am­ple I al­ways used is you have spe­cial­ized cour­ses, for ex­am­ple, in den­tal hy­giene, which calls for a highly spe­cial­ized skill, let’s say a den­tist.

“Those in­di­vid­u­als would cer­tainly be pro­vid­ing the sup­port, the ex­per­tise. They would not be look­ing for a full-time po­si­tion.”

Del Missier also re­sponded to Shaba’s con­cerns about aca­demic de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

“Aca­demic con­trol ex­clu­siv­ity is not some­thing that we can sup­port, and it cer­tainly can­not have ad­min­is­tra­tion be re­stricted in their over­sight of aca­demic de­liv­ery,” she said, point­ing to other play­ers like pro­gram ad­vi­sory com­mit­tees and ac­cred­i­ta­tion bod­ies.

“We be­lieve fac­ulty are cen­tral and crit­i­cal to the aca­demic de­ci­sion-mak­ing, and they do play a very, very im­por­tant role, how­ever, they are not the only stake­hold­ers.”

Still, Shaba is frus­trated by the ef­fects of con­tract fac­ulty on his role as a pro­fes­sor in the school of en­gi­neer­ing tech­nol­ogy.

“Some of us that are left, we find our­selves do­ing those guys’ work be­cause they’re never around when stu­dents need them. They’re never around. That’s just not a way to run a very ef­fi­cient or­ga­ni­za­tion,” he said.

Par­ties were back at the ta­ble on Tues­day. Shaba de­scribed the ne­go­ti­a­tions so far as “very strange.”

“We came in with what we felt was fair, and they’re still pretty much fair, and the other side hasn’t moved from their po­si­tion since June or even May,” he said. “They haven’t moved at all.”

Both Del Missier and Shaba said stu­dents are on their minds while they work out a new con­tract for col­lege fac­ulty across the province.

Shaba said, “Hang in there, be­cause a good work­ing en­vi­ron­ment for us would be a good learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment for them. This is not all about us, it’s about them too.”

OPSEU did not pro­vide a re­lease on Tues­day evening re­gard­ing the strike no­tice be­fore press time.

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