Ontario college teachers hold strike vote on Wednesday; strike could be in Feb.

TORONTO - The result of a strike vote by about 9,000 Ontario college instructors was expected to be released Wednesday night.

TORONTO - The result of a strike vote by about 9,000 Ontario college instructors was expected to be released Wednesday night.

The vote on whether to give their union a strike mandate came after five months of talks with the colleges broke down Dec. 15.

Premier Dalton McGuinty has encouraged both sides to work together to avoid a strike at the province's two dozen community colleges that would end classes for at least 200,000 full-time students.

Ted Montgomery of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union's bargaining team, which represents faculty members, has said if members voted in favour of a strike, a walkout wouldn't happen for at least a month.

For the union, key issues are workload, academic freedom and management's decision in November to impose its offer on the teachers without a vote.

Workload was also the top issue when college teachers went on strike for three weeks back in 2006, Montgomery said.

The previous contract expired Aug. 31, 2009.

The union wants a 2.5 per cent pay increase in each year of a three-year contract.

The colleges have offered 1.75 per cent in each of the first two years and two per cent in the last two years of a four-year deal.

Montgomery has said the colleges' offer would see instructors falling behind in their wages.

Both sides have indicated they would like to resume talks although none are scheduled.

Rachael Donovan of the colleges bargaining team has said there is no need for a strike and suggested the union modify its position so that talks could resume.

The union is asking for $218 million in concessions which the colleges can't afford, said Donovan.

The colleges' offer would bring the maximum salary for full-time faculty to $103,975 by Sept. 1, 2012, she said.

 
 
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