“We are miles apart,” CEO of College Employer Council on potential strike

Published On September 29, 2017 | By Fatima Khan | News, Politics

By: Joe Amodio

Kevin, a first-year international student originally from St. Kitts in the Caribbean, has only been living in Canada for two weeks and is already unsure if he will stay with the potential strike looming over Ontario colleges.

“I just got here a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know if I have to go back home or do I stay until this resolves. I invested a lot of money to be here. International student rates are maybe three or four times higher than a domestic student,” Kevin said.

In mid-September, 68 per cent of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) voted for a strike. After OPSEU requested a “no board” report last week, a conciliator set Oct. 15 as the earliest day all 24 public colleges can legally strike.

Bob Bolf, Humber’s faculty union president, assured OPSEU is bargaining for the long-term education for students across Ontario.

“Negotiations are not about money. It’s about the quality of education and the type of education students deserve and should be getting,” Bolf said.

While OPSEU fights for professors, instructors, counsellors and librarians; some of them want to avoid the strike altogether, despite admitting contracts need to be changed.

“I don’t want to go on strike. I’m not sure how I’ll survive, but I’m worried about my security, I’m worried about other contract workers. I want more benefit coverage during the time that I’m not working, so yes I think that wages have to rise with a new contract,” a teacher in the English for academic purposes program said who preferred to stay anonymous.

Andrew Leopold, Humber’s director of communications, said that a strike isn’t necessarily imminent if OPSEU and the College Council can’t come to an agreement by Oct. 15. The union would have to give a five-day warning of the strike.

“Bargaining is ongoing. We’ll see if a settlement is reached. In the event of a strike, Humber, like all the other colleges would be given a five-day notice from the union that they intend to strike,” Leopold said.

Despite Bolf’s beliefs that the two sides are bargaining to create a better educational experience for students, not everyone would agree.

Don Sinclair, Chief Executive Officer of the College Employer Council, believes colleges throughout Ontario have been successful with the current agreement in place.

“The college is celebrating 50 years. There’s a high level of student satisfaction, a high level of employer satisfaction, and good graduate placement. The union will tell you colleges are broken that’s not our view, colleges aren’t perfect by any means but we have a great track record,” Sinclair said.

While Sinclair admits the two sides are looking for an agreement one doesn’t seem imminent to the Chief Executive officer.

“Right now, we are miles apart,” Sinclair said about coming to an agreement.

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