Strike deadline looms for colleges

Negotiations between Ontario community colleges and their teachers continue today as both sides work to avoid a strike, which is scheduled to begin at midnight tomorrow if a settlement isn’t reached.
Some 8,600 teachers, counsellors, and librarians at all 24 community colleges across the province, including faculty at the Fort Frances campus of Confederation College, are seeking improved workloads and wages.
At the local Confederation College campus, the strike would affect two full-time faculty members and number of part-time educators.
“We’re taking the approach that it’s business as usual until somebody walks out,” said interim campus manager Dick Trivers.
College teachers in Ontario are members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. It says the teachers are fighting to keep conditions that were won through two strikes in the 1980s.
“Because people have fought to establish this in the past, they’re just not going to give it up,” said OPSEU communications officer Katie FitzRandolph.
The most important issue to faculty is workload, she noted. This includes limiting class size as well as preparation time for electronically- based learning.
“The teacher workload is fundamental to the quality of education the students receive in the classroom,” she stressed.
The second issue is salary.
FitzRandolph said it is generally agreed college faculty should earn more than high school teachers, but less than university professors.
“The offer on the table right now would see high school teachers making more than college faculty by the end of the collective agreement,” she argued.
The College Compensation and Appointment Council, bargaining on behalf of Ontario colleges, disagreed.
“This assumes that school boards and teachers will reach a 3.8 percent increase in both 2004 and 2005,” the council wrote in a recent report to college managers.
College faculty in Ontario voted 74.5 percent in favour of a strike back on Feb. 16 should an agreement not be reached through bargaining.