Members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents teaching faculty at colleges across Ontario, have voted to reject an offer from the College Employer Council that would have ended the strike action that began nearly five weeks ago. OPSEU membership was decisive, with 86 per cent voting to reject the offer and 95 per cent voter turnout among the membership.
The College Employer Council brought its final offer to a vote after they approached the Labour Relations Board of Ontario, who brought forth the offer to the striking OPSEU faculty. The offer included a 1.75 per cent wage increase in year one of the potential agreement, followed by a two per cent increase for the following three academic years. The CEC also proposed prioritizing full-time faculty positions over partial-load ones “when possible”, and allowing teachers to take more work to reduce the amount of part-time employees, a suggestion that OPSEU maintained would disproportionately hurt part-time faculty members.
OPSEU had called on its membership to reject the offer, stating that the offer did not appropriately address two of the major issues that membership were concerned about: academic freedom for faculty and ‘precarious work’, meaning the increase in part-time, partial-load, contract faculty positions.
Negotiations between OPSEU and the CEC broke down on November 4, which resulted in CEC bringing the request for the final offer vote to the Labour Relations Board. The strike action, which began on October 15, is currently the longest in the history of the province.
OPSEU president Warren Thomas spoke to the media following the news that the union had rejected the offer. He stated that both parties in the dispute share the failure for a resolution to the strike.
Thomas also went onto to say the Fall semester is now “in the red zone” in terms of being salvageable.
When speaking to the media, OPSEU bargaining chair J.P. Hornick said she wants to see all parties back at the bargaining table today.