Ontario’s striking college faculty voted today to reject a contract offer and continue their nearly five-week job action.The longest college faculty strike in Ontario’s history is dragging on at least a little longer.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents the workers, had recommended the colleges’ contract proposal be rejected.
The 12,000 college professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians have been off the job since Oct. 15, leaving some 500,000 students out of class.Talks between the colleges and the union broke down on Nov. 4, prompting the colleges to request the final offer vote. After 86 per cent of faculty rejected it.
Premier Kathleen Wynne said Thursday morning she is meeting with both the College Employer Council and Ontario Public Service Employees Union to discuss next steps. She says she is looking at all options, but she is hopeful the parties can reach an agreement.
The colleges have said the offer includes a 7.75 per cent salary increase over four years, improved benefits and measures to address concerns regarding part-time faculty, with language surrounding academic freedom remaining as the only major outstanding issue.
OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas said the forced vote was a “bully move” by the colleges.The head of the colleges’ bargaining team said it will be looking to the provincially appointed mediator for direction now.
The provincial government has ordered the colleges to create a fund — using savings from the strike — to help students who may be experiencing financial hardship because of the labour dispute. Advanced Education Matthews has estimated Ontario’s 24 colleges have saved about $5 million so far.
Law firm Charney Lawyers filed a proposed class action against the 24 colleges Tuesday, saying 14 students have come forward to potentially stand as representative plaintiffs.