Over the past two days, the bargaining team has met with close to 2,000 members at various Locals to address questions arising as a result of the strike deadline. The solidarity and resolve demonstrated by faculty in these meetings was simply inspiring.
The faculty bargaining team is meeting with the College Employer team today in an attempt to reach a negotiated settlement. We know that students have a lot of questions about the process.
Below, find two possible letters that you might want to share with your students, in order to explain the upcoming strike deadline, and to solicit their help in trying to pressure the College Presidents to resolve negotiations without a strike. Please encourage your students to write to their College Presidents today to encourage them to negotiate, or if that fails, to agree to voluntary binding arbitration.
JP, Jonathan, Kathleen, Michelle, Ravi, Rebecca, and Shawn
Your CAAT-A Bargaining Team
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The first letter has been drafted by the bargaining team; you’re welcome to revise or shape it in any way that you like. (Note that you should add the name and e-mail address of your College’s President)
As you may know, professors, librarians, and counsellors at Ontario’s 24 public colleges have been negotiating a new collective agreement with the Colleges since last July. Although the two sides are at the table this week, the faculty union has set a strike deadline for Friday, March 17.
The faculty union has done this because negotiations have not gone well, and the two sides have been at impasse since approximately November. The 16,000 faculty members have twice rejected management’s offer, but management refuses to change its offer, saying they will not negotiate faculty’s proposals.
Normally, salaries are a major issue in a round of bargaining, but that’s not the case this time – The Ontario government’s Bill 124 has limited salary increases to 1% by law, and both the faculty union and the college management have come to an agreement about salaries in this round of bargaining.
Instead, the dispute centres on issues like faculty work being outsourced to private colleges for profit; the amount of time that faculty are attributed to prepare online classes or to grade students’ essays and projects; the use or sale of faculty teaching materials without their consent; and the way that Counsellors are able to do the work of helping students.
Another major issue concerns the treatment of the thousands of professors who spend years on 14-week “Partial-Load” contracts, with little job security and no pay or benefits between semesters.
Faculty understand that this is a tough time – even a scary time – for many of you, and that the last thing you want to experience is classes getting cancelled because you’re caught in the middle of somebody else’s fight. We honestly did everything that we could to prevent that from happening – we started bargaining last July, and we also spent three months in “work to rule”, where we tried to put pressure on management without cancelling classes.
We’re doing one more thing to try to resolve negotiations without a strike: We’ve offered since November to have a neutral third-party arbitrator resolve all of the areas where both sides disagree, and decide what the next Collective Agreement should look like. That kind of arbitration often happens following a strike, and faculty are offering to skip straight to arbitration to end our dispute, without a strike. The College management refuses.
So now faculty will be going on strike unless management agrees to negotiate our issues or refer unresolved issues to common interest arbitration. The current deadline for striking is Friday, but we hope that the 500,000 students in Ontario Colleges can persuade the 24 College Presidents to come to an agreement with faculty. Faculty’s working conditions are your learning conditions, but even if you might not care what our next Collective Agreement looks like, you probably would like to avoid a strike. We encourage you to reach out to President Maureen Adamson at Maureen.Adamson@flemingcollege.ca or by clicking https://www.collegefaculty.org/write-your-college-president/ , and ask for the College Presidents to either negotiate a deal that both sides can live with, or let an interest arbitrator make decisions where the two sides can’t agree.
We hope that students and parents will be able to accomplish what 16,000 faculty couldn’t do: Convince the College Presidents to resolve negotiations without a faculty strike.
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The second letter is adapted from a letter that was generously shared by a faculty member at Confederation College. We have adapted it to make it a bit more relevant to all faculty, but you are welcome to adapt it to your needs and those of your students, including adding the name and e-mail address of your College’s President:
This week, the College Faculty union announced a deadline of Friday March 18th for a strike. You can find the announcement here: https://opseu.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Letter-to-College-Presidents-English.pdf
I have written this to hopefully provide some more information for you. I know it won’t settle your nerves entirely, but hopefully it will provide some more information that will help.
What does this deadline mean?
Although the two sides are currently at the bargaining table, the deadline means that if they cannot come to an agreement, or if the College Employer Council can’t agree to binding arbitration, then all of our faculty will begin a strike on Friday March 18th.
This means that all programs, classes, placements will cease.
This means that the CEC refuses to acknowledge that our demands matter.
This means that the CEC refuses to acknowledge that our students’ semester matters.
Why a strike?
Our union has been legally able to strike since December. We have been working tirelessly under a Work to Rule approach, to limit our impact on students and to prevent a full picket-line strike. Unfortunately, with the looming risk of a full lock-out (in which the College Presidents could lock out all faculty so that faculty go without wages for an extended period of time) and the provincial government elections (meaning they may not be able to be in session to intervene), our union has no choice but to act and issue a strike to protect our members and students.
The two sides are meeting this week: our goal is to get the College management to negotiate faculty priorities at those meetings, to prevent a strike. If this does not occur, a strike is set to commence on Friday March 18th. A strike is scary. I am scared personally. I do not want to be on the picket line. I do not want my wages impacted. I don’t want my students negatively impacted either. I want you guys to succeed. BUT, I know what we are asking for through this process is REASONABLE.
What does a strike accomplish?
A strike tells the College management we are standing in solidarity and are serious about our demands. Faculty voted to reject management’s offer twice–but they still have refused to negotiate faculty’s proposals. There is no disagreement about faculty wages right now; the two sides agree on how to deal with that issue. Instead, we are asking for the necessary tools to do our jobs effectively (reasonable workloads) to support our students (increased time for marking) and strengthened Intellectual Property rights (I have taught you all, you know how much time and effort I put into my lectures), Indigeneity with a commitment to change (we are all responsible for reconciliation), and better job security for contract faculty, to name a few.
What happens to the semester?
This is ultimately up to the College Employer Council and our College President. It depends on how long this strike carries on. The last time, a strike ended with the government forcing faculty to return to work. That outcome also forced both sides to send the remaining areas of disagreement to binding arbitration: The faculty union has already offered this as one way to settle the current negotiations without a strike.
What can we do as students?
You can write a letter to President using either the template provided at https://www.collegefaculty.org/write-your-college-president/, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. I am not saying you have to support the union. I am not saying you have to support the College management. I know you are caught in the middle. Just know that I will support you. Please reach out with questions.