There could be some light at the end of the five-week-long tunnel as striking Ontario college faculty are set to vote on the latest offer this week, which would bring an end to the month-long strike.
Provincially, about half a million full- and part-time students have been out of class since mid-October, when 12,000 faculty members hit the picket lines including professors, instructors, counsellors and librarians.
Faculty will begin to vote on the latest offer Tuesday, and an update is expected on Thursday afternoon whether that’s enough to bring an end to the ongoing labour dispute.
Ahead of this week’s vote, Ontario’s colleges are publicizing details of the college employer council’s latest deal on a newly launched website.
It says the employer and Ontario Public Services Employee Union (OPSEU), the union representing striking faculty, have agreed on everything except for the language regarding academic freedom.
The employer says they “respectfully disagree” with how the academic freedom has been framed as an issue between faculty and college management, arguing that stakeholders are a third participant who should be allowed to continue having a say in requirements for courses and programs.
The vote was scheduled after talks between the OPSEU, and the College Employer Council broke down early last week.
Faculty have been instructed by OPSEU president Smokey Thomas to reject the offer, as he urges the two sides to get back to the bargaining table.
Students held rallies across the province Friday, including a large gathering at Fanshawe’s Oxford Street campus. They’re urging the two sides to reach a timely agreement so they can get back to the classroom and salvage their studies.
In the meantime, colleges have been busy working on contingency plans in an effort to salvage the semester.
If an agreement is reached this week, Fanshawe College says it will extend December classes, notifying students to hold off on any holiday travel until after Dec. 23.
As for refunds, the college says it will receive direction on the matter from the province, once the strike is over. Fanshawe College has stressed that no student has ever lost a semester as a result of the previous three faculty strikes.
About 12,000 faculty provincewide have been on the picket lines since mid-October, leaving about 500,000 full- and part-time students out of class.
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