Ontario public college staff could go on strike by Friday

Staff at Ontario’s 24 public colleges are threatening to pull out by the end of the week if bargaining demands aren’t met.

An open letter from the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) to Ontario college presidents asks them to agree to voluntary binding arbitration. The letter says it will “save the school year” and avert a strike. He asks the College Employer Council (CEC) to accept arbitration.

Staff who could strike by Friday include professors, instructors, librarians and counsellors.

The CEC represents public colleges, including Algonquin College, Sheridan College and St. Lawrence College. It is the government-mandated bargaining unit that bargains with unionized staff on behalf of the colleges.

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If its demands are not met, OPSEU says 16,000 Ontario college staff will go on strike at 12:01 a.m. this Friday, March 18. The potential escalation comes after Ontario teachers rejected a final CEC offer on Feb. 17, an open letter said.

Binding interest arbitration involves both parties asking a neutral arbitrator to resolve a dispute. The arbitrator strives to build a compromise from two opposing proposals in order to avoid a strike.

“I firmly believe we can get a deal at the bargaining table,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “I am convinced that an agreement exists and that we can avoid a disorderly strike which is in no one’s interest.”

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A statement from CEC CEO Graham Lloyd said the union offer was “unrealistic and unacceptable”. He said the union had repeatedly said it would not compromise and chose to go on strike.

“We have consistently stated since July that the remaining union demands could never be accepted,” Loyd said.

“To insist that we subject them to interest arbitration is a failure to uphold our consistent assertion that these claims fall well outside any acceptable provision. We can never accept them.

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OPSEU says the deadline for its offer is March 18 at 12:01 a.m. If it’s not accepted by then, staff will go on an all-out strike.

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Auditor General concerned about colleges’ reliance on international students

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