Deadline looming amid possible Ontario college workers strike

Click to play video: 'Deadline looming for deal between Ontario colleges employer and faculty'
Deadline looming for deal between Ontario colleges employer and faculty
WATCH: 16,000 Ontario college employees say they'll walk off the job Friday if a new deal isn't reached with the College Employers Council – Mar 16, 2022

With a possible strike looming for Ontario college staff, the two sides of the bargaining table are at odds while the deadline on Friday approaches.

Staff at all 24 public Ontario colleges are threatening to walk out on Friday if their bargaining demands aren’t met.

Those faculty include instructors, librarians, counsellors and professors.

“The ball is in their court. They’ve been doing a lot of inflammatory things over the last few days but we are committed to trying to reach a deal without labour action as we have been throughout this process,” said JP Hornick, Chair of the College Faculty Bargaining Team.

Despite multiple recent meetings, the two sides remain at odds over how to resolve without a strike. The teacher’s union wants a binding interest arbitration, a sort of compromise decided by a third party, while the employer’s council prefers an offer selection arbitration, where an arbitrator review offers from both sides and selects one.

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Graham Lloyd, CEO of the College Employers Council, said the union made an excess of 300 demands in bargaining and that the demands were examined by an experienced mediator.

“After reviewing their demands, [the mediator] identified that they were just unreasonable, and in fact in a written report concluded that no employer in Canada would ever accept them,” said Lloyd.

“Unfortunately those are some of the demands that remain on the table.”

The union rejected the council’s last offer in mid-February, listing key issues such as workload and increased prep time, time to spend on individual students and the contracting out of faculty work.

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With graduation just six weeks away for final year students, many are beginning to feel the stress of the repercussions of a strike. One student says she believes in what the teachers are employees are fighting for, but is conflicted at the personal cost that will come if a strike happens.

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“To finally get to the placement and have this wonderful experience, I’m very lucky, my placement is phenomenal, and the idea of not being able to go there and not being able to see my placement through to completion is gut-wrenching,” said Caitlin Norwich-Stevenson, who is six weeks from finishing a Social Service Worker diploma at St. Lawrence College.

If a strike happens, students could face a pause in their schooling just weeks after classes returned in-person amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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