College faculty may join strike
By Brenda Hampton
College faculty may follow in the footsteps of Ontario teachers and stage a walkout if a contract agreement is not reached with management by the new year.
Last month, faculty across the province voted 95 per cent against a contract offer from Council of Regents which represents college management.
About 67 per cent of the 7,300 faculty across the province turned out for the vote. However, talks between COR and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union representing college faculty have yet to resume.
Faculty contracts expired 18 months ago. However, Ian McArdle, a member of COR, explained during this time COR and OPSEU's negotiating team have only met for 15 hours.
"We think it's time to get back to the bargaining table," McArdle said. "We'll be reviewing our position."
OPSEU negotiating team chair Ted Montgomery hopes the high rejection of COR's last offer will prompt management to approach them with a more realistic offer.
"It must be crystal clear to [management] that faculty are solid in opposition to a concession agenda," Montgomery said. If management is bent on the course of action they have followed so far, then it can only mean they are determined to force a confrontation, he added.
Among the issues faculty contests are low pay increases, decreased preparation time and a minimized workload formula.
COR's last offer included a two per cent pay increase over an eight-year period. With this offer, in three years college faculty would have been the lowest paid teachers in the province.
Management also proposed scrapping the workload formula, a system which creates a balance between preparation, evaluation and teaching contact time.
Additionally, the contract gave colleges the power to reclassify existing professors as instructors, cutting salaries by an average of $20,000.
OPSEU Local 244 president Doug Law at Oakville's Sheridan College said he believes layoffs and corporate downsizing throughout the province prompted what he calls, "the worst offer [he's] ever seen from management."
"I think COR gambled on [faculty] being frightened and thought we would vote any offer in, but they underestimated us," Law said.
Paddy Musson, a professor at Fanshawe College in London, said:
"There are great parallels to our concerns and what is in Bill 160, the government has to know nobody is prepared to accept these changes at any level," she said.