The OPSEU, the union representing teachers and employees at Ontario’s public colleges, has been calling for months for a strike where college employees will have to stop working indefinitely. This week they announced an ultimatum, saying the last date to negotiate is Friday the 18th.
Otherwise, classes will stop, no matter how much it affects students. OPSEU is waiting for the colleges’ negotiator to agree to arbitration before Friday. Twenty-four universities would be affected the bargaining team involves 16,000 college workers (faculty, librarians, and counselors). They said the college employee council went three months without accepting negotiations, so members will have “no choice” as of March 18.
A Professor member of the association, named Jonathan Singer, said, “What I can say is that every major labor dispute or strike that I can think of in our division in recent history has ended in binding interest arbitration. Sometimes that requires a strike. This time we are willing to refer all outstanding issues to binding interest arbitration without the need for a strike, and if we end up with a strike that ends up in binding interest arbitration, I would have to say that is entirely management’s responsibility.”
The union mentioned in their letter that they believed the colleges do not want to bargain, after 62% of members rejected a settlement offer on February 17. The Employers Council posted on its website that they are not seeking anything from the union and therefore cannot accept arbitration.
Universities are keeping an eye on what will happen on Friday since students about to graduate depend on it. This involves students, faculty, and academic employees. More news on this in two days.