College faculty union set strike deadline

By Nick Seebruch

Published on October 11, 2017

St. Lawrence College Logo.

ONTARIO, Canada - The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents college faculty members, has set a deadline of 12:01 a.m. Monday, Oct. 16 for a possible strike.

If a deal is not reached with the College Employer Council by then, then OPSEU members will go on strike. The Union made the announcement in a press release published late on Tuesday, Oct. 10.

Negotiators representing OPSEU walked away from the negotiating table on Tuesday.

“Today was another frustrating day of bargaining, during which our employer once again refused to consider key faculty issues. They have walked away from the table,” said JP Hornick, chair of the union bargaining team. “The purpose of setting a strike deadline is to get negotiations moving – before it’s too late.”

According to OPSEU, they represent over 12, 000 professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians working at 24 public colleges across Ontario. Union members include full-time permanent and part-time workers

“Our union team has been clear about its goals since bargaining began in early July,” Hornick said. “We have put forward concrete proposals to improve education quality by including the voices of faculty and students in academic decisions; we have made the case for strengthening the complement of full-time faculty; and we have called on the colleges to read the signals from Queen’s Park and start treating contract faculty fairly.

“Unfortunately our employer is not moving forward on the issues faculty care about most – even in the case of no-cost items like academic freedom or longer contracts for contract faculty.”

St. Lawrence College in Cornwall is one of the schools that would be affected were a strike to happen.

College President Glenn Vollebregt told Seaway News that he was confident the issue could be resolved before a strike came to pass.

"In 50 years, there have been 12 strike votes," he said. "Never has a student lost a semester to a strike."

After OPSEU made their announcement however, Vollebregt did release a statement saying that all full-time classes would be suspended in the event of a strike. Campus facilities and residences would remain open..

St. Lawrence College alone has over 10, 000 students with close to 1, 300 at their Cornwall campus.

OPSEU had previously rejected an offer from the College Employer Council which included, amongst other things a 7.75 percent salary increase.

If there were to be a strike, OPSEU implied in their press release that they are financially prepared stating that they have $72 million in their strike fund.