Colleges push second vote on rejected offer
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, February 2, 2010 6:10PM EST
TORONTO - Ontario's 9,000 college teachers will vote on a final contract offer after the colleges moved Tuesday to take a deal already rejected by the union straight to the teachers.
The move came one day after the union set a Feb. 11 deadline for a strike that would curtail classes for at least 200,000 full-time students. While the union welcomed the vote it also urged its member to reject the deal.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union also slammed the colleges for failing to consider the open vote option sooner and agreed to push back the Feb. 11 strike date so members can vote.
"All along, the colleges had the legal right to present their offer to our members," OPSEU bargaining chairman Ted Montgomery said in a press release.
"They claimed that we were preventing our members from voting. Nothing is further from the truth."
Montgomery said he's confident teachers will reject the offer which he said contains "significant take-aways" and fails to address issues related workload and academic freedom.
The province's 24 community colleges called on the Ontario Labour Relations Board on Tuesday to arrange a vote on the offer.
Last month, 57 per cent of college instructors voted in favour of handing the union a strike mandate.
The college's final offer includes a 5.9 per cent salary increase to a maximum of $102,186 by Sept. 1, 2011 -- which is $5,650 more than the previous collective agreement. The colleges have said the deal was shortened to three years to address concerns the economic climate may improve.
Rachael Donovan, the colleges' bargaining team chairwoman, added workload protections contained in the last collective agreement are enhanced in this latest proposal.
For instance, faculty members with unusually large classes can expect more assistance, she said.
"We believe the college's final offer is a fair and reasonable offer, especially in the current environment, and it is as far as we can go," she said.
"We hope faculty members conclude the colleges' offer is fair, reasonable and worthy of support."
Donovan rejected the idea of binding arbitration, noting the decision of a third party isn't going to change the economic circumstances of the colleges. The union proposed the idea after setting the strike deadline Monday.
Both the colleges and the union say they're committed to finding a solution that will be least disruptive to students.
They've urged the Labour Relations Board to set a vote date as soon as possible.
Talks between the union and the colleges broke down Dec. 15 after five months of tough negotiations.
The previous contract expired Aug. 31, 2009.
Key issues for the union are workload, academic freedom and management's decision in November to impose its offer on the teachers without a vote.
The union has said workload was also the top issue when college teachers went on strike for three weeks back in 2006.