Ontario’s community college teachers return to work after 18 days
Ontario’s 9,100 striking community college teachers returned to the classroom March 27 after the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and college administrators reached an agreement to have outstanding issues resolved through voluntary binding arbitration.
“We proposed binding arbitration after it became clear the colleges wouldn’t move on education quality issues at the bargaining table,” said Ted Montgomery, chair of the faculty bargaining team.
Montgomery said it took two days for the colleges, represented at the bargaining table by the College Compensation and Appointments Council, to agree to arbitration.
He also said the colleges dragged their heels about getting students back to class.
“They delayed the resumption of classes until the following Tuesday, even though teachers were in their classrooms on Monday following the Friday agreement,” he said. “The colleges should have been ready to accept students immediately.”
During the 18-day strike, the colleges maintained they couldn’t afford union members’ demands for smaller classes and more faculty “so that each and every college student gets more time, more attention and more feedback from the people who are helping them learn,” Montgomery said.
Provincial budget figures indicate the colleges have a $50 million surplus this year and a projected surplus of $35 million next year, not including a $30 million savings due to the strike.
“We found it offensive the colleges used students and faculty as pawns to try to get more money from government,” Montgomery said.
Solidarity rallies were held at every Ontario community college the day before college administrators agreed to binding arbitration.
“We were gratified by the strong turnout of our colleagues and students across the education sector at these events,” said Paddy Musson, chair of OPSEU’s college academic division. “We want especially to thank the provincial teachers associations, the Canadian Federation of Students and CAUT and its member faculty associations for their staunch support and participation in our rallies.”