February 19, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 78  

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NEWS

March work stoppage for Ontario colleges?

By Dan Perry
Gazette Staff

Ontario’s community colleges could be embroiled in a work stoppage as early as Mar. 3 due to labour unrest.

The faculty at all 24 of the province’s community colleges negotiate through the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union Local 110, and chief steward of faculty Gary Fordyce said there is still much to negotiate.

“There’s a number of issues on the table,” he said. “Workload is one of our top priorities, and issues around staffing and the use of non full-time staff.”

Fordyce explained that since 1996, the number of full-time faculty positions in the province has decreased by 23 per cent, while the number of students has climbed by 46 per cent.

At Fanshawe College Tuesday night, 70 per cent of faculty came out to vote on a strike mandate, with 72 per cent voting in favour of setting a strike date for Mar. 3.

Bargaining has been going on, Fanshawe President Howard Rundell confirmed, but the two sides are not making much progress.

“Unfortunately, I’m not very optimistic. The two sides are much farther apart than [Tuesday’s] London Free Press suggests,” he said, explaining the difference in faculty salary demands was significant.

Rundell reported the Association of Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology of Ontario, the council of administrators that work with college presidents, had proposed a two-year deal increase of 3 per cent each September, and 0.5 per cent each April.

Fordyce said this was insufficient. “The average settlement between the high school boards is 3.85 to 3.9 per cent, and university is the same. We would have to at least get the average to even remain where we are,” he said, noting getting less would allow the colleges to fall further behind the average.

Fordyce also drew attention to the union’s proposal, which seeks the same 3 per cent increase each September, but seeks 1.5 per cent in each April under the agreement, a “back-end loaded” agreement he said would reduce the cost for the employer.

“The only way we could add more [to salaries] is if we believed the government would provide more funding,” Rundell countered.

Fordyce also accused the administrators of using teachers as pawns in lobbying the government for more funds. “It’s not like the college hasn’t recognized these problems,” he added, citing an ACAATO document which identified the staffing issues the union is concerned with.

“Why wasn’t this taken care of in August?” Fordyce asked, which is when the old contract expired.

In the most recent newsletter to Fanshawe students, Rundell called the salary demands unrealistic.

“Nothing could be more ridiculous,” Rundell said. “How can one think that paying more money to teachers is going to cause government to want to give more colleges more than that.

“It would never be teachers who would be pawns in strikes, it would be students — it’s them who have their year and their lives disrupted,” he said.

 

 

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