News Local

College talks resume today

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

Dozens of Algonquin College staff have been manning the picket lines for nearly three weeks since a job action began. Today, both sides are supposed to return to the bargaining table. Pictured in front (from left) are Sheila O'Brien, Dan Labelle, Paul McGuire, Rhonda Halliday, Angela Woollam, Angela Rintoul, Diana Komejan, Barb Clarke and Pauline Edmonds. Pictured in back (from left) are Colin Boucher, Donna Cushman, Wendy Moon, Erroll Downey, Alison Jones and Adam Johns.

Dozens of Algonquin College staff have been manning the picket lines for nearly three weeks since a job action began. Today, both sides are supposed to return to the bargaining table. Pictured in front (from left) are Sheila O'Brien, Dan Labelle, Paul McGuire, Rhonda Halliday, Angela Woollam, Angela Rintoul, Diana Komejan, Barb Clarke and Pauline Edmonds. Pictured in back (from left) are Colin Boucher, Donna Cushman, Wendy Moon, Erroll Downey, Alison Jones and Adam Johns.

Talks in the ongoing college strike are set to resume today.

 

On Wednesday, Nov. 1, the College Employer Council issued a brief statement indicating a desire to get back to bargaining. It says they have asked the provincially appointed mediator to bring the colleges and the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union back to the table to resume bargaining on Thursday, Nov. 2.

In the statement, Sonia Del Missier, the head of the Colleges’ Bargaining Team, said the strike has gone on for too long and it is time to start talking again.

“We need to end the strike and get our students and faculty back in the classroom,” she said. “We can reach a settlement quickly and have classes start again early next week. We will focus our efforts at the table and work very hard to reach a deal that ends the strike.”

On its college faculty website, OPSEU posted that their bargaining team is ready to bargain.

JP Hornick, the bargaining team chair, stated on the OPSEU website college faculty have been taking a stand for a better college education system.

“Since July we have been ready to bargain a fair contract that addresses the issues of fairness for all faculty and quality education,” he said. “If council is finally ready to discuss faculty’s proposals, then we can reach a settlement quickly.”

Now in its third week, the strike involves OPSEU, representing 12,000 full-time and part-time instructors, and the College Employer Council, representing the management side of the province's 24 colleges.

The strike affects more than 300,000 students as both sides battle over the main issue: the use of part-time and contract faculty. OPSEU members feel colleges rely on it too much to the detriment of the quality of education, and want to work towards a 50-50 ratio of full- time to part-time staff, while management has argued this demand for ratios will cost $250 million, takes away their flexibility to manage their campuses and would lead to the loss of thousands of contract positions.

Other issues include improving working conditions, improved benefits and stability for contract faculty; a say in academic decisions such as course content and how it is taught; increased counsellor resources for students so they can access important mental health support when they need it; and better use of online learning so it supports traditional teaching and learning, and is not solely used to save money.

Locally at Algonquin College's Pembroke campus, the strike is affecting more than 1,000 students and some 50 faculty represented by OPSEU Local 415.

SUhler@postmedia.com