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OPSEU Press Release
December 20, 2017
College arbitration award could have been reached at the bargaining table: OPSEU
TORONTO – An arbitration award to create a new collective agreement for more than 12,000 Ontario college faculty could have been reached at the bargaining table – and without the five-week strike that began October 16 – if the colleges had displayed “even the slightest” concern for students and staff during negotiations, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) says.
“Today’s award from arbitrator William Kaplan could have been bargained between the colleges and faculty a long time ago,” said JP Hornick, chair of the OPSEU college faculty bargaining team. “With any reasonable amount of cooperation from the colleges, there would never have been a strike, students would not have had to worry about losing their semester, and faculty would never have lost five weeks’ pay.
“It is clear now that college faculty are the ones willing to stand up for the positive changes our system needs by standing strong in solidarity,” she said. “Faculty are the real leaders trying to improve the college system, and I am immensely proud that we stood up for fairness for all faculty and a higher quality of education for our students.”
The arbitrator’s award includes contract language on “academic freedom” that will now allow faculty to speak freely about academic issues without fear of reprisal. The issue had been a major sticking point in the talks both before and during the strike that ended November 19 when the province legislated faculty back to work. The award also includes improved job security for partial-load and full-time faculty and a new government-run task force that will make recommendations on faculty complement, precarious work, college funding, student success, and governance issues.
“Throughout bargaining, which began in July, the College Employer Council had ample opportunity to bargain a deal,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Instead, Council let the strike occur and then prolonged it for two weeks with an unnecessary ‘final offer’ vote that had no chance of leading to a settlement.
“The colleges are Crown agencies and the government could have – and should have – stepped in and forced them to bargain,” he said. “It is too late to prevent the strike, but it is not too late for the government to step in and change the leadership on the Council, and I urge Premier Kathleen Wynne and Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews to do so.”
For more information: Nicole Zwiers, vice-chair, college faculty bargaining team, 905-391-8149; Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931; Mona Chevalier, OPSEU college faculty bargaining team (French only), 613-606-2238
The following news appeared in CAAT-A “Update Issue #2” on December 1,
Mediation set for mid-December
Arbitrator William Kaplan has set out his schedule for trying to arrive at a new collective agreement for Ontario college faculty through mediation.
Beginning December 12, both the College Employer Council and OPSEU will file mediation briefs to give the arbitrator background information on the issues in dispute. Kaplan, an experienced arbitrator agreed to by both parties, will meet with union representatives December 14 and employer representatives December 15. After that, there will be two days of mediation December 16-17.
If the parties do not reach a new collective agreement through mediation, arbitration of unresolved matters will begin in early- to mid-January.
Earlier this week, Council’s law firm, Hicks Morley, brought a preliminary motion before the arbitrator to speed up the process and have arbitration start before January. The arbitrator did not grant the motion, and instead accepted the timeline proposed by the union. Kaplan also denied another motion from Council, which called for a freeze on the filing and processing of grievances or workload complaints related to faculty’s return to work post-strike. This is an important victory for the union: absent a return-to-work protocol, the grievance process is essential to protecting faculty’s rights in the workplace.
Bill 178 directs the arbitrator to finalize the new collective agreement no later than 90 days after being appointed. While this deadline may be extended if both parties agree, a likely scenario is that faculty will have a new contract before the end of February 2018. If the contract is ordered by the arbitrator, it will be final and binding, with no ratification by the parties.
Council has agreed that OPSEU’s participation in the mediation/ arbitration process is “without prejudice” to the union’s position on Bill 178, the back-to-work legislation passed November 19, is a violation of faculty’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The following message from the bargaining team related to the arbitration process was sent to all Local presidents on November 25th.
The bargaining team is very pleased to advise that our legal counsel, Don Eady and Nini Jones of Palaire Roland, have been able to reach agreement on an arbitrator under bill 178 with Wallace Kenny, counsel to the Council. The arbitrator is William Kaplan and some of you have attended at arbitrations with Kaplan. He is familiar with our sector, our collective agreement and is widely regarded as balanced in his approach to labour relations. If the parties had not reached agreement as of yesterday, an arbitrator would have been selected by the ministry.
As you know, the arbitration is to take place within 30 days from the date the arbitrator is selected. The parties have notified the Ministry to advise that they have agreed to an arbitrator and now we will have to await a specific date for the arbitration.
I mentioned in a previous post that we had excellent legal counsel and I have referred to them by name here. Don Eady and Nini Jones are very well respected and have many years’ experience in labour side representation. The bargaining team is really pleased to have their skill and representation at the upcoming arbitration particularly as we, again, face Wallace Kenny of Hicks Morley.
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