School’s still out
Negotiations break down between colleges, union; semester could extend into January
Georgian College students will be in class a little bit longer than most years this semester.
Talks to end the four- week labour disruption between college faculty and the College Employer Council broke down, Monday.
The council, which represents the province’s 24 colleges, including Georgian College campuses in Barrie, Orillia, Owen Sound, Midland and Collingwood, said it has asked Ontario’s Labour Relations Board to schedule the vote on a final contract offer.
According to notes sent to students on Monday, the fall semester will be extended into the week of Dec. 18 to 22.
Should the strike continue for a longer period of time, it is possible the semester could be extended into January.
All campuses will be closed and there will be no academic activity such as classes, tests or exams from Dec. 23 to Jan. 1, 2018.
Avery Konda, president of the Georgian College Student Association ( GCSA), said the fourweek strike ( which includes a reading week) is affecting students.
“It’s going to be a bit harder for students now because there is a potential for an extension of the semester,” he said.
A GCSA live Facebook stream, expected to be in operation by the end of the week, if not sooner, will help keep students up to speed on the extension and other questions they might have, Konda said.
The live feed is expected to include input from senior Georgian College officials, he said, adding questions about the strike’s impact on students’ studies, and things like co- ops can also be asked.
“We need to end this strike and get students back in the classroom. We have asked the labour board to schedule a vote and let our faculty decide,” said Sonia Del Missier, head of the Ontario colleges’ bargaining team.
The College Employer Council has called on the Ontario Public Service Employees Union ( OPSEU), representing the 12,000 college workers across the province, to suspend the strike during the eight to 10 days it will take to organize the vote.
“The council cannot ask faculty to return to work before the strike vote because we have no contract and will not work when they have walked away from negotiations,” said Anita Arvast, OPSEU Local 350 chief steward in Barrie.
She said it’s “ridiculous” that they think faculty can head back to class with no return- to- work plans in place.
“So, in fact, they are forcing the students to wait another eight days to two weeks before we can be back in the classroom when they could choose to keep negotiating and get us back ASAP.”
Faculty are “absolutely devastated” that the colleges have walked away from the table, Arvast added. “This is actually worse for students than them staying at the table and negotiating.”
Georgian College president and CEO MaryLynn West- Moynes said the latest offer addressed “every issue” raised by the faculty union.
“I came to work this morning believing we would have an agreement today,” she said. “It provides better job security for partial load faculty. It includes an agreement by the government to establish a task force that will look at various issues, including staffing models and the issue of precarious work.”
West- Moynes said she would have preferred a settlement reached at the bargaining table.
“However, we’ve exhausted all efforts and we’ve reached the point where we need individual faculty members deciding whether or not this is the offer that will allow them to get back to the classroom,” she said.