School’s still out

Ne­go­ti­a­tions break down be­tween col­leges, union; se­mes­ter could ex­tend into Jan­uary

The Enterprise-Bulletin (Collingwood) - - FRONT PAGE - IAN MCINROY West- Moynes

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.

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