College faculty rejects contract offer

Friday, 17 Nov, 2017

The results mean students will not be able to resume classes at this time.

Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews said the government is looking at a "range of options" to get students back into the classroom.

This is the longest strike in the history of Ontario college faculty.

This is day 32 of the strike by teachers and faculty members, cancelling classes for students across Ontario.

In order for the offer to be approved by OPSEU members, it must receive a yes vote of 50 per cent plus one vote.

Despite the lack of an agreement between the union and the College Employer Council, which represents the institutions, a forced vote was ordered and held from Tuesday through Thursday morning on the colleges' final offer after it appealed to the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas congratulated faculty for rejecting the offer-something the OPSEU had encouraged voters to do from the beginning.

The 12,000 college professors, instructors, counsellors and librarians have been off the job since October 15, leaving some 500,000 students out of class.

"The Colleges bargaining team is in touch with the mediator for a resumption of bargaining", said Rick Webb, Sault College human resources and corporate communications director, speaking to SooToday.

Cassidy said depending on how long the strike lasts, the colleges may look at extending the fall term into January and delaying the start of the Winter term by a week or more, but she doesn't think they are at that stage yet.

"Calling for this vote was a bully move by Council", he said. "You have to meet a certain threshold and we're not there".

A strike in 1984 was ended by back-to-work legislation, and two others in 1989 and 2006 ended with mediation and arbitration.

The chair of the colleges' bargaining team said all major issues in the offer have been agreed on by both sides except for language surrounding academic freedom.

The strike is threatening to go into a sixth week, putting the semester in jeopardy for 14,000 full-time students, plus 32,000 part-timers, on local Conestoga campuses in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Stratford, Guelph, Ingersoll and Stratford.

Matthews also said that the semester can be salvaged. Students are seeking refunds for lost instruction time, or full refunds for those students who decide not to continue with their program this year.