Ontario Colleges Respond to OPSEU Strike Notice

TORONTO, March 14, 2022 /CNW/ – The past two years have been really hard for everyone. Every time it appeared that College life might be returning to normal, the pandemic would worsen, and situations across the globe developed. It is therefore with much regret that we advise that on March 14, the OPSEU academic employees representing full-time and partial-load professors, instructors, librarians, and counsellors have given notice that they refuse to moderate their demands and they will withdraw their services starting a full walk-out strike on Friday, March 18, 2022.

“Please know that Management has made numerous attempts to reach an agreement with the Union,” said Dr. Laurie Rancourt, Chair of the CEC Management Bargaining team. “As far back as a year ago, in March 2021, Management asked the Union to extend the current agreement without any changes so that we could complete the school year without interruption and recognize the uncertain times in which we are living. The Union flatly refused that offer without any discussion.”

In November 2021 management made a final offer where we put aside all of our demands. The only outstanding issues are those that an independent mediator, with 40 years of experience in helping parties come to an agreement, advised were unachievable either through direct negotiations or in binding arbitration. He stated that many of the Union’s remaining demands are “completely unrealistic“. This is because they are demanding changes that they know colleges cannot make.  For instance, they have made demands about their workload that violate the law governing compensation. The government has confirmed the Union demands violates the law, yet the Union refuses to moderate it choosing to strike.

Unfortunately, despite this advice to them, since November 18th, the Union has repeatedly rejected the CEC’s invitation to moderate its remaining demands and return to the table to conclude a collective agreement.  It is false and misleading for the Union to suggest that a deal at the table is possible in the face of the Union’s own intransigence on the remaining demands. 

As the independent mediator advised them, and we have consistently stated since July, the Union demands now remaining could never be accepted. For instance, they want to resolve issues without compromise and simply take them to an arbitrator.

The Union is claiming it had no choice but to strike because the Colleges have refused to bargain and have refused arbitration. This is simply untrue.

“CEC has repeatedly offered Final Offer Selection Arbitration. If the Union is satisfied that its offer is reasonable, then it should allow an arbitrator to choose between it and the CEC Offer,” said Graham Lloyd, CEO of CEC. “The Union has refused to do so which we believe is because it knows that their offer is unrealistic and unacceptable, despite all claims to the contrary.”

By insisting on interest arbitration to conclude this round of bargaining, the Union has refused to recognize that the Colleges have not asked for anything and have already agreed to many of the Union demands. Simply put, we have repeatedly tried to reach agreement without any positive response from the Union.  

The Union has repeatedly stated that it is not prepared to compromise and the only resolution it will accept is through Interest Arbitration only on the remaining issues on the table and therefore, only on their outstanding demands. It is not lost on us that by stating it will accept interest arbitration, OPSEU is prepared to accept compromise if it is forced, but is unwilling to propose any on its own initiative.

“We have put aside all of our demands on a without-prejudice basis and have advised we cannot give any more,” said Graham Lloyd, CEO of CEC. “We have consistently stated since July that the remaining Union demands could never be accepted. Insisting we take them to interest arbitration is a failure to respect our consistent assertion that these demands fall well outside any acceptable provision. We can never accept them.”

Indeed, we ask the Union to reconsider our proposal for an arbitrated solution via Final Offer Selection to ensure there will be no harm or interruption for students.

In view of how the Colleges have demonstrated their willingness to concede and compromise under the circumstances, the decision to strike is short-sighted and comes at the expense of students and the College system.

“The Colleges have stated on numerous occasions since November that they will never lock-out faculty,” said Dr. Laurie Rancourt, Chair of the Management Bargaining team. “Our promise to students is to continue to make every effort to reach a fair agreement. We want to achieve this with as little disruption as possible. Unfortunately, the Union has chosen to go on a strike. We have sincerely tried to find an agreement and will continue to pursue a reasonable agreement.”

About College Employer Council

The College Employer Council (CEC) is the government-mandated bargaining agent for the 24 Ontario publicly-funded Colleges in negotiating Collective Agreements with unionized staff. In addition, the CEC provides a variety of services for the College system such as advice and guidance on human resource issues, Collective Agreement administration, research, and is the policyholder for group benefits.

SOURCE College Employer Council

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