It's not too late to avoid a strike
College Employer Council (CEC) has addressed and agreed to many of OPSEU’s demands and is not asking OPSEU for any concessions. There remain, however, a few items that the CEC (which represents all 24 Colleges in the Ontario system) cannot agree to because they are illegal or would severely impact college operations.
In terms of a pay increase, the deal that colleges have presented to the union has already given as much of a pay increase as the law will allow (Bill 124). If colleges were to agree to the union’s extra demands to reduce workload, in addition to the raise which has been provided, it would be illegal, and the Ontario government would not allow it. This has been confirmed in writing by the Treasury Board Secretariat.
OPSEU has also suggested that colleges will lock out faculty. A lock-out is when management doesn’t allow people to work even when they are willing. Colleges have said all along that they will never lock out faculty. It would be reckless and careless. This has not changed. The colleges would never do that to students – especially not now. There will not be a lock-out and the union’s suggestion that a lock-out is possible is simply not true.
Resumption of bargaining
CEC is urging OPSEU to withdraw their threat of a strike and return to the bargaining table. CEC has stated that if this happens, they will sit down to negotiations. We are encouraged to hear that a meeting between the two parties scheduled to take place on March 17.
The CEC and colleges have always been ready to agree to arbitration, meaning both sides present their proposals and an independent person (arbitrator) chooses the most fair and reasonable agreement. The CEC is open to binding arbitration. It must, however, be on the entire offer instead of only on the union issues that remain outstanding.
Colleges will do that today to end this quickly and avoid a strike. CEC is entirely agreeable to putting its full offer in front of an arbitrator.
Ongoing attempts to avoid a strike
From the very beginning, CEC has been working hard to improve conditions for OPSEU members and avoid a strike. The CEC and colleges implemented improvements in December 2021 benefiting faculty. The improvements included the largest pay increase allowable by law and employees were given this increase for time they had worked going back to October 1, 2021 onwards.
The College Employer Council (CEC) has tried many ways to reach an agreement with the union. A year ago, the CEC asked the union to extend the current agreement (so that it would not expire in 2022) and offered the largest pay increase allowable by law so that the school year could be completed without interruption, recognizing the uncertain times in which we are living. The union refused. Instead, the union continues to demand fundamental changes to the employment agreement, some of which violate law, at a time when learner outcomes are most vulnerable.
Sheridan’s faculty, counsellors and librarians are dedicated educators and persevering throughout the pandemic has been an exhausting experience. We sincerely hope that OPSEU will withdraw its intended strike activity and return to bargaining where there can ideally be resolution and we can move forward together in support of our students.
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