Negotiators for Ontario’s 24 community colleges and the union that represents their 9,000 teachers should sit down and reach a negotiated contract settlement that doesn’t force students out of classes, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Friday.
“I would encourage both sides to act responsibly, to do everything that they possibly can to come together and stay together and find a way to resolve this in a way that doesn’t compromise education or interfere with students’ learning,” McGuinty told reporters.
“Obviously we’re keeping a close eye on it.”
A spokeswoman for the premier later confirmed a provincial mediator is working with the two sides in an attempt to resolve the impasse without a strike that would force classes to be cancelled.
Meanwhile, the colleges issued a fresh appeal Friday to the Ontario Public Service Employees Union to let the faculty vote on what management insisted was its final contract offer.
Dr. Rachael Donovan, chairman of the colleges’ bargaining team, said the offer includes a salary increase of 5.9 per cent, which would raise the top pay for a college teacher to more than $102,000 by September 2011. In addition, workload protections contained in the last collective agreement would remain intact, said Donovan.
OPSEU said the offer is essentially the same as the deal imposed by the colleges on the instructors last November, and insisted it is not blocking the colleges’ attempts to have individual teachers vote on the proposed contract.
“The union knows that the employer has the right to take their offer to a membership vote,” reads a note from OPSEU’s bargaining team. “Indeed, the union asked management to do just that on Nov. 12. The (colleges) refused and instead unilaterally imposed terms and conditions of employment.”
OPSEU said it “is consulting with legal and other expert counsel before making any hasty or unconsidered decision” about having teachers vote on the colleges’ “final” offer.
“Any attempt to shift the primary responsibility on the union barely two weeks after the union met its responsibility to conduct a strike vote should be viewed with much suspicion,” wrote the bargaining team. “The union will not and cannot prevent such a vote.”
The college instructors voted 57 per cent in favour of giving OPSEU a strike mandate earlier this month. The union said the earliest it would call a strike would be mid-February.
A strike would affect at least 200,000 full-time college students at campuses across Ontario.