As the Ontario college strike now enters its fourth week, the College Employer Council (CEC) has asked the Ontario Labour Relations Board to conduct a vote on the latest offer tabled by the CEC. This comes after the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) rejected the offer on Nov. 6 on behalf of its members.
In a written statement, Sonia Del Missier, chair of the CEC’s bargaining team, said the CEC made a fair offer that was ultimately turned down by the OPSEU bargaining team.
“We addressed all faculty priorities and the offer that is available for faculty right now – on the table – should have ended this strike,” she wrote.
However, OPSEU sent out an e-mail to striking faculty that painted a different picture of how the talks went.
“Instead of addressing the core issues of fairness and quality, Council has put forward proposals that will have devastating negative consequences on the college system for generations to come,” the statement read.
The union e-mail even went so far as to call the CEC’s return to negotiations last week a sham.
“The College Employer Council finally announced that they were prepared to return to the bargaining table,” the letter read. “While this was welcome news at the time, their actions since returning indicate that this was clearly a publicity stunt.”
The Council also requested the Union suspend the strike while the vote is organized. However, according to Paul Armstrong, vice president of Mohawk College, the Union rejected the request to suspend the strike.
“As a result, all full-time, in-person continuing education courses and apprenticeship training remain on hold,” Armstrong said in an e-mail sent out to all Mohawk College students.
So, what’s next for the 500,000 students waiting to get back to school?
The Labour Board will need to set a vote date before the voting itself takes places. The entire voting process could take anywhere from five to ten days.
Del Missier conceded that while a vote isn’t the ideal solution, it’s the only logical move when considering the students – who have been out of the classroom since Oct. 16.
“An employer vote is never a preferred path because a settlement should be reached at the bargaining table,” Del Messier said. “But we have exhausted all efforts at the bargaining table and now our faculty will decide.”
But OPSEU had a different message for its members.
“This forced offer vote is unnecessary, harmful and will delay the end of the strike,” the statement said. “We will be providing more information shortly, but we will need to stand strong and reject this offer.”
Ignite News will continue to cover the strike as it affects Mohawk College students.