Teachers union for Niagara College and 23 other colleges across Ontario vote 59% in favour of strike but remain on the job

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Published December 21, 2021 at 4:38 pm

Teachers at Niagara College in the Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake campuses – as well as the 23 other community colleges across Ontario – recently voted 59 per cent in favour of a strike mandate.

However, while they have been without a contract since September 30, so far there hasn’t been any indication of a walk-out at Niagara College or elsewhere in Ontario, even after the strike vote on December 11.

In a statement to Niagara College students, the teachers union said, “There is no indication at this time that a work stoppage is imminent or that there will be an immediate impact on your studies. Current college operations and Fall-term schedules remain in place, including all scheduled remote and on-campus classes, labs and activities.”

They added, “Along with all 24 public colleges in Ontario, Niagara College remains hopeful that a new agreement can be reached without interruption to your academic year.”

The teachers are represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) CAAT-Academic, which takes in all faculty and academic employees. Their negotiations with the College Employer Council (CEC), which represents Ontario college employers, broke down December 11 over the teachers’ contract demands, which centre around workload, job security and equity issues.

JP Hornick, the chair of the college faculty bargaining committee, says the CEC’s approach is heavy handed, unnecessary and is a huge mistake.

“Unfortunately, the CEC has rejected faculty’s offer to extend the existing Collective Agreement until at least January 3 and have opted to impose terms and conditions,” said Hornick. “To be clear, the CEC has chosen their own form of labour disruption over further negotiations or voluntary binding interest arbitration, which are both still on the table from faculty.”

According to the union, the CEC said it would be imposing employment conditions on college faculty following the strike vote while the faculty bargaining team gave five days’ notice that members can begin working to rule, effective December 18.

Hornick was bothered by the fact that the silence from college presidents was deafening.

“What’s worse is that the College Presidents are silent on this move,” he said. “Either continued negotiations or interest arbitration would ensure stability for students and faculty while allowing both sides’ proposals to be considered by an arbitrator.”

Talks between the teachers union, which represents some 15,000 college faculty, and the CEC began in July.

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