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Ontario Labour Relations Board asked to schedule vote

TORONTO — Ontario’s colleges have called for striking faculty to vote on a final contract offer after talks to end the four-week labour disruption broke down today.

The College Employer Council, which represents the province’s 24 colleges, says it has asked Ontario’s Labour Relations Board to schedule the vote.

“We need to end this strike and get students back in the classroom. We have asked the Labour Board to schedule a vote and let our faculty decide,” said Sonia Del Missier, head of the colleges’ bargaining team.

The council has also called on the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, representing the 12,000 college workers, to suspend the strike in the eight to 10 days it will take to organize the vote.

The council says OPSEU has stonewalled the bargaining process and refused to accept an offer that addresses their priorities.

“OPSEU’s insistence on continuing the strike is a terrible outcome for students and faculty,” Del Missier said. “We addressed all faculty priorities and the offer that is available for faculty right now – on the table – should have ended this strike.”

But OPSEU bargaining chair JP Hornick says the council has walked away from the talks when only one outstanding issue - a request on academic freedom - remained unsettled.

She said the council should be working out a deal at the bargaining table instead of calling a strike-prolonging vote on its final offer, the bargaining team for 12,000 striking college faculty says.

“Rather than continue to bargain, the colleges have called a vote that, in itself, could easily keep faculty and students out of their classrooms for another two weeks,” said Hornick said.

After three weeks away from the table, negotiations had resumed last week at the urging of Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews, who asked both sides to get a deal done.

The strike has cancelled classes at the province’s colleges, impacting 500,000 full time and part time students.

Georgian College has 11,000 full-time domestic students and 1,500 international students at its seven campuses, including Barrie and Orillia.

OPSEU Local 350 represents 278 full-time faculty and 299 partial load faculty at Georgian College's seven campuses. An additional 368 faculty members teach on a part-time basis and are not members of the faculty union. Numbers change every semester, however, especially non-full-time faculty.

The collective agreement for college faculty expired Sept. 30, 2017.

The union has called for the number of full-time faculty to match the number of faculty members on contract, but the colleges have said it would add more than $250 million in costs each year.

The colleges have put forward a four-year-agreement that offers a 7.75 per cent pay increase.

The Canadian Press