Welcome back from what was hopefully a restful and certainly well-deserved break. As you are likely aware negotiations between the College Council (Management) and the CAAT-Academic bargaining team have been ongoing during the summer. While it would be nice to report that much progress has been made on the main issues that our team was charged with negotiating on our behalf, in fact the opposite has happened. Even those of you who have not followed the details of the negotiations this summer are likely aware that a strike vote has been called, and that the employer has unilaterally distributed an offer of settlement which has not been accepted by the bargaining team.
For many the question is why are we at this seeming impasse? Well, we have to go back to the the “demand setting” process from the last academic year. Through surveys and meetings, the input of all faculty at all the colleges was sought and collected to help set the agenda for the upcoming round of contract negotiations. The results of that process were the focus on four main issues: Collegial Governance, Students and Faculty First, Privatization, and Online Learning (resources pending). Please click on the links for each of those issues to learn more about them via collegefaculty.org, an excellent resource put together by the bargaining team.
In this post I won’t go into the details of each of the issues since they are very well explained via the links. But note that these are largely system issues that affect the way the colleges are being run and are doing business today. The fact that they rose to the top as the primary issues of concern for faculty speaks volumes about how concerned we are as a group about the current direction of the Ontario College system. These issues were more important to you than salary and benefits; they expressed the system-wide concern that we have as faculty that the colleges are heading in the wrong direction.
So, with these democratically agreed to issues in hand, the bargaining team went to the table in good faith to try and see if some agreement and compromise could be worked out with the College Council. They were met with a chilly reception. After the union’s introductory presentation on the first day, management simply refused to even discuss the issues, leaving the bargaining team with no choice but to file for conciliation. Conciliation has not helped move things along and with continued stonewalling from the Council’s side, the union finally decided to file for a strike authorization vote.
The need of the strike vote is very clear. As it stands, the College Council simply does not believe that our membership truly cares about the issues being brought to the table. A strong strike mandate will demonstrate that we do in fact care about these issues and want to see progressive changes that will ensure fairness for all faculty and maintain quality for students. A strong strike mandate is really the only tool that we have left to get the employer’s attention. Voting yes does not necessarily mean we will be on the picket line, but it will drastically improve the likelihood that some actual discussion of the important issues will take place. The strike vote is currently scheduled for Thursday, September 14th. We encourage all of you to become informed about the issues. Read some of the links in this post as well as those posted below. Discuss the issues with your colleagues and ask questions of your local stewards. This is a battle worth fighting!