A strike poised to disrupt classes at Ontario’s 24 public colleges was avoided as the two sides of the labour dispute agreed to enter into a form of balanced mediation on Thursday just over an hour before labour action was set to start.
The faculty union also agreed to end all work-to-rule activities as part of the agreement.
Students will be able to return to classes as per their regular schedule and there will be no further labour interruptions this year.
Humber College student Heather Woolridge told Humber News she was “pleasantly surprised” that the faculty’s Ontario Public Service Employees Union and the College Employer Council, which represents the colleges, found a way forward.
“I am hoping that our faculty were able to settle on an agreement that they’re satisfied with,” the first-year film and television production student said.
“Personally, I’m relieved,” said Rosalia Hong. The Humber business administration student plans to graduate this semester.
Humber union Local 562 president Milos Vasic told Humber News he applauded the result.
“I’m absolutely relieved that the CEC finally came to its senses,” he said. “The semester is saved.”
OPSEU’s faculty bargaining team had proposed the two sides enter into the type of arbitration both sides ended up agreeing to for weeks in advance.
“This is exactly the sort of arbitration we asked for. Students deserve nothing less,” Vasic said.
Binding interest arbitration will feature a third-party arbiter who will look to find a compromise between the two sides.
The employer council had previously refused this form of mediation, instead calling for a type of arbitration that would have a mediator choose one side’s entire proposal.
CEC executive Graham Lloyd said the colleges decided to accept the arbitration to avoid class disruptions.
“After all that students, faculty and the College community have been through over the past two years, we felt it was essential that we put our differences aside and conclude these negotiations without a strike,” Lloyd said.
Faculty said Monday they would strike at 12:01 a.m. on Friday if there was no resolution at the bargaining table.
Both sides announced last-minute talks on Wednesday with the hope of avoiding a strike.
Negotiations began Thursday morning and lasted until late in the evening.
“It was a long night for all of us, but the fantastic news made it all worthwhile,” said Azi Afousi, co-president of the Humber Students United advocacy group.
However, some students were critical of Humber College’s quality of communication during the bargaining process, which started last summer.
“I hope there won’t be any more disruption and confusion like this throughout the semester,” Hong said.
Humber faculty are holding a rally at the North campus on Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to mark the end of the 2021 bargaining process.