Mediator steps away from college talks saying faculty pursuing ‘strike-focused approach’

Oct 28, 2021 | Campus News, Headlines, News

Ontario’s bargaining agent for its 24 colleges claimed the union representing faculty is pursuing a “strike-focused approach” after mediation between the two sides came to a halt on Thursday.

Mediator Brian Keller, nominated by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, criticized OPSEU’s academic bargaining team, known as CAAT-A, for not negotiating in a “meaningful” way.

“Many of the CAAT-A team’s remaining demands are highly aspirational and completely unrealistic,” Keller said in a report announcing the end of mediation.

“The CAAT-A team claims to recognize that but has showed no willingness to sufficiently moderate its demands to give me any hope that further mediation at this stage could result in a negotiated agreement,” he wrote.

The union bargaining team denied the allegations put forward by Keller, telling its members in an internal statement seen by Humber News that it aimed to “negotiate greater changes” that it says are “possible and necessary.”

Despite the bargaining team accepting OPSEU’s suggestion to nominate Keller as the mediator for the talks, CAAT-A said it was concerned over Keller’s approach.

“In particular, we believe Mediator Keller’s conclusions about the proposals were arrived at on the basis of very little direct communication with the faculty bargaining team,” the union said in a prepared statement.

“Realistically, Mediator Keller’s position reflects that of the CEC and is a classic approach to collective bargaining: that the only changes possible in any round of negotiations are minor and few in number,” it said.

Representatives from the local unions at each of the colleges will be meeting on Friday with the CAAT-A bargaining team to determine their next steps, Local 562 President Milos Vasic told Humber Et Cetera on Thursday.

Vasic said he anticipates there could be a final negotiation offer for the union members to vote on.

Should the members vote no, the option exists for a strike vote, a potential Vasic said faculty want to avoid.

“I don’t want to go on strike,” he said.

The colleges and faculty are seeking to renew their collective agreement last updated in 2017.

When talks broke down then, a record-setting five-week strike took place that only ended when the then-Liberal government under Premier Kathleen Wynne legislated faculty back to work.