Ni­a­gara Col­lege teach­ers join­ing col­leagues to vote on strike man­date

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - NEWS - AL­LAN BENNER STAN­DARD STAFF ABen­ner@post­media.com

Ni­a­gara Col­lege teach­ers will join fac­ulty from across the province Thurs­day, choos­ing be­tween the class­room and po­ten­tially join­ing picket lines.

Col­lege fac­ulty rep­re­sented by OPSEU will cast their bal­lots from 8:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. at both the Wel­land and Ni­a­garaon-the-Lake cam­puses, while their col­leagues at all 24 col­leges across the province cast bal­lots to de­cide whether or not to give their union a strike man­date.

OPSEU’s bar­gain­ing unit chair­per­son JP Hor­nick is ask­ing the more than 12,000 teach­ers it rep­re­sents to sup­port the strike man­date to give them more power when ne­go­ti­at­ing with the province.

“We’re look­ing for a strong strike man­date from our mem­bers so man­age­ment will ac­tu­ally start ne­go­ti­at­ing at the ta­ble on fac­ulty is­sues,” she said.

Hor­nick, how­ever, said she re­mains hope­ful that the strike man­date vote will not end on the picket lines.

“We are ne­go­ti­at­ing to­wards a set­tle­ment, not a strike,” she said.

“The strike man­date is one of the tools in the tool kit that al­lows the mem­bers to show that they stand be­hind the pro­posal, the de­mands that they put for­ward.”

Ni­a­gara Col­lege’s Stu­dent Ad­min­is­tra­tive Coun­cil pres­i­dent Ryan Huckla is pretty cer­tain the union will get the yes vote it’s look­ing for, “how­ever, it’s all a ne­go­ti­a­tion tool.”

“At the end of the day, as Ni­a­gara Col­lege Stu­dents Ad­min­is­tra­tive Coun­cil we’re neu­tral in the sit­u­a­tion. Our main con­cern is that the stu­dents are taken care of,” he said.

De­spite an of­fer from col­lege ne­go­tia­tors of a 7.5 per cent wage in­crease over four years in­creas­ing max­i­mum wages for full-time in­struc­tors to $115,094 by 2020, Hor­nick said the un­der­ly­ing is­sue is the fu­ture of the col­lege sys­tem, not just wages and ben­e­fits.

“Man­age­ment be­lieves that fac­ulty can be bought off with a bit of money and a pat on the head, but if you don’t ad­dress fac­ulty is­sues. If you don’t ad­dress fac­ulty con­cerns, then we have to show you that our mem­bers care about th­ese things and are will­ing to stand up for them.”

For in­stance, Hor­nick said 81 per cent of the teach­ers the union rep­re­sents are work­ing un­der con­tract, “and they’re reap­ply­ing for their jobs ev­ery 15 weeks.”

“It’s not a sta­ble sys­tem. We want there to be fair­ness for them, more job se­cu­rity. We also want to see a share in the aca­demic de­ci­sion-mak­ing. The dis­cus­sions that set the aca­demic di­rec­tions for class­rooms in the col­lege gen­er­ally, we be­lieve that fac­ulty should have a voice in that process,” she said. “That’s typ­i­cally done at all other col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties in Canada through aca­demic sen­ates – a com­bi­na­tion of ad­min­is­tra­tors, fac­ulty and stu­dents all work­ing to­gether.”

Hor­nick said col­lege man­age­ment has re­jected both of th­ese as items for dis­cus­sion dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions.

She said OPSEU hopes to reach an agree­ment with the col­leges by Sept. 30, but couldn’t pre­dict if a strike would hap­pen af­ter that date.

“Be­yond that, I wouldn’t be able to pre­dict what’s go­ing to hap­pen un­til we get to meet again and see where ev­ery­body is.”

Asked about the OSEU ne­go­ti­a­tions, Ni­a­gara Col­lege me­dia re­la­tions ad­vi­sor Su­san McCon­nell said the Col­lege Em­ployer Coun­cil, which in­cludes the col­lege’s bar­gain­ing team, will be re­leas­ing in­for­ma­tion on the re­sults of the vote, which will be pro­vided to the me­dia.

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