Fanshawe College could see second strike in two years
London Community News
By Mallory Clarkson/London Community News/Twitter: @MalloryClarkson
Fanshawe College students may be welcomed back from summer break with their teachers toting picket signs, if the faculty union and employer council don’t negotiate a settlement. This would mark the second strike in as many years outside the college gates.
Jennifer Boswell, Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) secretary of local 110, said friction developed after the College Employer Council (CEC), which represents 24 Ontario community colleges, ignored or rejected all of the union’s 28 proposals, except one.
“Twenty-seven proposals were rejected outright and we were told to take them off of the table,” Boswell said. “Because of that, we’re calling it stonewalling. It’s very clear that the council is not negotiating in good faith.”
The faculty union represents more than 10,000 college employees across the province — 660 of them are from Fanshawe College.
Boswell said in order to keep the conversation between the two groups moving, the union is holding a strike vote on Sept. 6, but stressed that doesn’t necessarily mean a picket line is on the horizon.
The faculty union’s 28 proposals, Boswell argued, were of no or little cost. They included a 1.75 per cent salary increase for two years and provisions for more academic freedom, which Boswell described as curbing management’s and administration’s intrusion into the classroom that ultimately overrides teachers’ educational decisions.
“The college is trying to dictate how we teach students,” she said. “From the faculty’s point of view, we are the experts in education and we know how to teach students.”
Don Sinclair, CEO of the CEC, that while the council did reject the majority of the union’s proposals, he said it comes down to money. He argued the majority of the union’s points have price tags.
“To give you an example, some of the proposals they have regarding faculty workload and staffing adjustments would drive our academic delivery costs up about $140 million a year,” Sinclair said. “But, we’ve been told (by the government), ‘You’re not getting any money for compensation or increased delivery costs, so go figure it out’.”
Some proposals the council suggested included streamlining the grievance process and developing a new classification for some new employees.
Sinclair explained a new class of employees, called facilitators, would be created and used during the nursing students’ 12 to 14-week-clinical placement. Existing employees, however, would not be affected, as there is a grandfather clause incorporated in the proposed arrangement.
Bowell argued the proposal for a new facilitator position isn’t something she would want to see in a contract.
“What will happen to those facilitators is they’ll have to work 50 per cent more hours a week and they will make half of the pay of a professor with no benefits,” she said.
Boswell added the faculty union is worried that of an agreement can’t be reached, the CEC will impose a new contract on teachers, something that was also done in 2010. She stressed only by having a positive strike vote will the faculty union be able to avoid another imposed contract.
The college-level educators aren’t the only group of teachers being faced with an imposed contract. A legislated wage freeze for two years and short-circuited strikes or lockouts may be imposed on unions representing elementary and secondary school teachers.