The faculty representing 12,000 workers at Ontario’s 24 public colleges has voted in favour of a strike mandate setting the stage for next week's round of collective bargaining.

The college faculty, which represents professors, librarians, instructors and counsellors, voted 68 per cent in favour of going on strike if bargaining with the College Employer Council is unsuccessful.

While no strike deadline has been set, the collective agreement for the faculty expires on Sept. 30.

Faculty members are part of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

OPSEU did not immediately disclose how many of the 12,000 workers voted.

In a news release issued Thursday, OPSEU said the bargaining team representing the college faculty debated and voted on 16 proposals to “improve the quality and fairness of the college system in Ontario.”

“Hopefully this strike vote will be the incentive the colleges need to start negotiating for real,” bargaining team chair for the union JP Hornick said in the news release.

According to the union, 81 per cent of college teaching is done by contract faculty.

Speaking with CP24 Thursday evening, OPSEU President Warren “Smokey” Thomas said along with the introduction of Bill 148 – the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act – the issue of “equal pay for equal work” has become a top issue for the union.

“Hopefully they’re going to go back to the bargaining table on Monday and now hopefully the employer gets serious about bargaining,” he said. “We’re trying to bargain a settlement not a strike but they will strike if absolutely necessary.”

“Money is not the issue. The issue here is equal pay for equal work, which I guess is money, which the employer won’t even talk about, even though the Liberal government has introduced Bill 148.”

Thomas said the employer should not be making decisions for an industry they are “unfamiliar” with.

“It’s not good for education to have somebody who has never been in a classroom, never will be in a classroom, telling somebody exactly how to do it,” he said.

Although it is not known which types of workers voted in favour of this strike, Thomas said part-time and contract staff are “very supportive.”