The latest communication from the College Council contains a few “stretchers” (to borrow a term from Huck Finn). We will attempt to clarify some of the confusion that may be caused by this missive, and at the same time hopefully make a compelling case for voting “yes” on Thursday.
1. “Voting ‘yes’ to a strike will not change the colleges’ ability to agree to the union’s demands.”
Fortunately, the bargaining team is not asking that the colleges “agree” to the union’s demands. They are simply asking that the College Council be willing to discuss and negotiate the issues that are being brought to the table. This is something that they have to date refused to do. Remember that the issues of collegial governance and academic freedom, fairness for contract faculty, and recognition of online teaching workloads are ones that you, the members, have listed as being important. You participated in the demand setting process, and through that you have asked your bargaining team to bring these issues to management for discussion.
So far no discussions on these issues have taken place as the Council simply refuses to acknowledge or negotiate them. The College Council absolutely has the ability to negotiate these issues. There is a difference between not wanting to do something and not being able to do something.
A strike mandate will make it clear to the Council that the membership strongly believes in these issues and that it is finally time to acknowledge them and negotiate something that both sides can work with.
2. “In previous bargaining rounds, when the union bargaining team has been granted a strike mandate by faculty, it has normally led to strike action”
We have had three strikes during the 50 year history of the Ontario College system. In that same time, the union has held twelve strike votes. In other words 75% of past strike votes have led to a settlement and not a strike. Perhaps the Council has a different understanding of “normally”, but in our opinion a more honest statement would be “In previous bargaining rounds, when the union bargaining team has been granted a strike mandate by faculty, it has normally led to a settlement with no strike action“
3. “Colleges’ offer contains no concessions…”
The colleges’ offer is largely an extension of the current contract. That contract, signed in 2014, contained a major concession in the moratorium on Article 2 grievances. Article 2 specifies that the colleges should give “preference to the designation of full-time positions” over contract positions (Partial Load, Sessional or Part-Time). Article 2 grievances have been used to pressure the colleges to fill open full-time positions and create new full-time positions where the workload exists. This moratorium was a major concession that was only supposed to last the 3 years of the contract.
During that time, we have seen the use of contract faculty continue to swell to the point where now 81% of the teaching contact hours across the college system are delivered by non-full-time faculty.
Clearly the Colleges are unable to restrain themselves when it comes to hiring contract faculty over full-time. What will the ratio of full-time to contract faculty be with four more years of the Article 2 grievance moratorium? Extending this moratorium is a major concession in this offer and it is completely disingenuous to suggest otherwise.
4. “These new positions directly contradict OPSEU’s assertions that colleges are decreasing faculty positions in favour of part-time and sessional hires”
The bargaining team has never claimed that the total numbers of full-time faculty have decreased, so the statement above is deliberately misleading. The team has spoken about the ratio of full-time to non-full-time faculty which has been steadily increasing to the point where we now have 81% of the teaching contact hours across the college delivered by non-full-time faculty. That is a fact and is calculated using numbers provided by the College Council. The union’s position is that it is unsustainable to have so much of the teaching done by precarious workers.
The Council also loves to talk about Partial-Load faculty as though they are not contract faculty. Yes, our Partial-Load colleagues are covered by parts of the collective agreement, but all the issues that affect Part-Time and Sessional employees also affect Partial-Load: they have no SWF, next to no job security, and have to reapply for their positions every four months. They, like all non-full-time faculty, are precarious workers and the system is relying on them far too heavily. The colleges are refusing to make the appropriate investments in full-time faculty.
For a Local 653 take on the contract faculty issue, please see our earlier post from August 28.
One thing we can agree on is that it is important to vote, and we hope that faculty will show up in large numbers at the polling stations. The issues currently at the table are not new. They have been presented by the union and dismissed by the College Council in at least the last two bargaining rounds. Now is the time to stand together and show that these issues matter and need to be addressed for the good of the college system as a whole.