Roughly 16,000 faculty members at community colleges across Ontario - including Sault College - have rejected a final collective agreement offer following a three-day vote that wrapped up Thursday.
Province-wide, 62 per cent of full-time and partial-load instructors, professors, librarians, and counsellors at 24 of Ontario’s public colleges voted to reject the final offer. The previous contract expired Sept. 30 of last year.
Of the 151 votes cast by Sault College staff, 81 votes were cast in opposition to the collective agreement offer, representing 53.6 per cent of the vote.
Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Local 613 President Neal Moss says the College Employer Council (CEC), which represented Ontario colleges at the bargaining table, imposed certain terms and conditions upon faculty represented by OPSEU, then forced a one-off vote on those terms and conditions. Negotiations between CEC and OPSEU reached an impasse in November of last year.
“Basically, the faculty don’t want to strike. The union does not want to strike. If we wanted to strike, we would’ve had a strike back in October,” said Moss, speaking with SooToday Friday. “So what we’ve been doing is just working to rule, which is a strike action - but we’re just not doing anything extra.”
Moss says the typical work week is 44 hours per week, but most faculty can put in anywhere from 50 to 70 hours a week.
Intellectual property rights are another point of contention. Moss says that faculty had to pivot to online learning quickly, often paying for their own equipment and supplies in order to make that happen. Moss says he kicked out about $2,000 for equipment - including microphones, a projector and screen for online teaching.
“Now the colleges are just saying, ‘hey, that’s our material,’ and they’re taking those videos and those tests that we put online and we're saying ‘that’s ours’ and capturing that,” he said. “Now in some cases, what they’re doing is running those courses without faculty, and they just have somebody run the courses and put out the tests and so forth.”
“We’re saying, ‘hey, that’s our work - that’s my image and my voice and the way I present.’”
The CEC expressed disappointment in the result of the vote via news release Friday, and said that colleges in the province “will continue to operate until an agreement is reached or OPSEU decides to escalate beyond work-to-rule.”
In a news release issued Friday, OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said he hopes the result of the vote will trigger a return to the bargaining table.
"I am convinced a negotiated settlement is there and within reach," said Thomas. "Let's sit down and get it."