The threat of a strike or lockout at Ontario community colleges has ended with a new contract announced Friday.
The College Employer Council (CEC) and OPSEU academic employees bargaining teams representing full-time and partial-load faculty, instructors, librarians, and counsellors have a new collective agreement.
On March 17, both parties agreed to enter unconditional interest arbitration before arbitrator William Kaplan to avoid a college-wide strike.
"This agreement allowed both parties to put demands forward at mediation/arbitration and provide a rationale for and against proposed changes. Additionally, the terms and conditions introduced by the colleges in December which included wage and benefit increases remained in effect," says a news release issued Friday, Sept. 23.
Kaplan met with both parties over the course of three days in early September. For the first two days, he acted as a mediator to the parties addressing areas of shared interest. At the end of the third day, arbitration occurred on the outstanding items.
“This new collective agreement makes significant gains beyond what the employer was offering during bargaining,” said union bargaining team co-chair Ravi Ramkissoonsingh.
“The CEC’s lack of interest in bargaining these important issues was clear from day one. We’re glad that a neutral arbitrator was willing to award our members’ reasonable demands, which the CEC repeatedly refused to agree to," Ramkissoonsingh added.
This round of bargaining was marked by a massive shift to online classes during the pandemic and provincial laws that limit the free and fair collective bargaining of public service employees.
“Despite the unconstitutional constraints of Bill 124, this may represent the most significant gains that any post-secondary faculty association has achieved in bargaining since the pandemic began,” said OPSEU president JP Hornick.
“This agreement puts us on a clear path to improving the working conditions of Ontario college faculty and the learning conditions of Ontario college students. It’s a testament to what our members can achieve when they stand up for their needs and their students’ needs," Hornick added.
In Kaplan's arbitration award, he wrote: "In determining the outstanding issues in dispute, careful attention has been paid to both the statutory and normative interest arbitration criteria, most particularly replication: the replication of free collective bargaining. Mention must also be made of the fact that this is a Bill 124 case and that accordingly determines compensation."
"The CEC maintained its position that many of the union's demands violated Bill 124, and the arbitration award supports it," said CEC CEO Graham Lloyd. "This new three-year agreement addresses areas of shared interest that better the college sector as a whole and provides certainty and stability to students, academic employees, and the greater college community."
Some of the changes to the collective agreement include:
- Commitment to supporting Indigenous faculty
- Commitment to EDI
- Update to the counsellor class definition
- Changes to priority for partial-load employees
- Inclusion of "chosen family" in bereavement leave
- Taskforce to study workload
- Wage and benefits increase of one per cent
"Changes to the workload formula cannot be made without a formal study and data. The new task force that is established as part of the arbitration award will examine all aspects of workload from delivery to program type," said Dr. Laurie Rancourt, management bargaining chair. "The data that comes out of the task force will be used to inform the next round of bargaining."
The new collective agreement is a three-year renewal that will expire on Sept. 30, 2024.
To view the arbitration award, visit www.CollegeEmployerCouncil.ca
To view the arbitration award, visit www.CollegeEmployerCouncil.ca.