Ontario colleges and union avoid strike, agree to unconditional arbitration

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The agency representing Ontario’s 24 public colleges and the union that represents 16,000 unionized staff have avoided a strike as the pair agreed to settle their differences through arbitration.

In a joint statement, the College Employer Council (CEC) and Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) revealed bargaining teams agreed to unconditional interest arbitration at a virtual bargaining table with a Ministry of Labour appointed mediator.

“We are pleased to advise that after 12 hours at the bargaining table, the parties have agreed to unconditional interest arbitration on both parties’ outstanding issues. Hearing dates mutually convenient to the parties will be scheduled soon,” said Dr. Laurie Rancourt, chair of the management bargaining team.

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A proposed work action by the union, delivered in a letter to the CEC on Monday, could have put professors, instructors, librarians and counsellors, on strike as of 12:01 a.m. March 18.

Work-to-rule strike activities have also concluded as a result of the late Thursday agreement.

“In order to avoid any disruption to students, we were prepared to proceed, immediately and unconditionally, to binding interest arbitration before William Kaplan on all of the outstanding issues,” said CEC CEO Graham Lloyd in a release.

“After all that students, faculty and the college community have been through over the past two years, we felt it was essential that we put our differences aside and conclude these negotiations without a strike.”

Negotiations have been ongoing since last September but broke down in the fall. The union representing staff said unmet demands include workload and short-term contracts.

On Tuesday, Jill Dunlop, Ontario’s Minister of Colleges and Universities, begged the two sides to find a deal.

“I’ve heard from students and from parents who are very upset,” she said. “Students cannot afford a strike. They’re finally back in the classroom. That’s where they need to be, that’s where their best education is.”


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