Full-time professors at colleges across Ontario will be holding a strike vote a week from Wednesday, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll see picket lines around Algonquin College this winter.
The vote would give the bargaining team a mandate to recommend a strike if an agreement cannot be reached anytime soon, but Algonquin College professor Rod Bain, a member of the OPSEU bargaining team, said such a step has become a standard procedure in bargaining.
Since the 1970s, college teachers have been through 15 rounds of collective bargaining. The negotiations have involved a strike mandate in 12 of those rounds, but there have only been three strikes in that time, said Bain.
“It’s doesn’t mean there will be a strike, but it does mean that one is possible,” said Bain. “Unfortunately, it is something that we pretty much need to do in order to move management toward a settlement.”
The latest strike was in the winter of 2006. That ended with both sides agreeing to binding arbitration. Bain said the main sticking point this time relates to workload issues that were unsolved from the previous strike. College professors are looking for a 20 per cent increase in paid time to prepare for classes or to meet with students outside of class time, he said.
He said the colleges are saying this would drastically increase college teachers’ wage demands to $218 million over the next four years and reduce in-class time.
Negotiations between the bargaining team and the colleges began in June. The last meeting was on Dec. 15 and it is unlikely there will be any more meetings before the vote.
A spokesperson from the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities said they are waiting to see the results of the vote before returning to negotiations.