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Majority of faculty gives union strike option as contract set to expire Sept. 30

The union that represents 12,000 college faculty across Ontario, including Algonquin, can now call a strike in ongoing negotiations for a new contract.

Members voted 68 per cent in favour of a strike, OPSEU announced Thursday night. Algonquin faculty voted 75 per cent in favour.

The vote does not necessarily mean a strike will occur but it authorized the union to call one if negotiations with the group that represents colleges — the College Employer Council — fail to resolve the dispute.

Related: Union sets clock ticking towards possible faculty strike in mid-October

The current collective agreement expires on Sept. 30. A strike date has not been set.

OPSEU would not be in a legal position to strike until the agreement expires and the provincially-supervised conciliation process falls through.

Bargaining between the union and the College Employer Council had hit a standstill, with Don Sinclair, CEO of the Council, telling the Algonquin Times the union’s demands are “unpalatable.”

One professor said the union is to blame for stalled negotiations and that’s why he voted no on Thursday morning.

“I believe a lot of the demands are intended to provoke a confrontation,” said Steve Griffiths, coordinator of the mobile app design and development program.

He said the union is living in the past and should sit down and seriously think about how colleges are changing and what they’ll look like in the future, instead of threatening to strike.

“I think the union leadership is out of touch,” Griffiths said.

OPSEU has 16 demands with the main priorities focused on academic freedom and compensation — but they aren’t being addressed by the College Employer Council, said Jack Wilson, first vice-president of OPSEU 415, the local union branch.

“Good negotiations should provide thoughtful and meaningful discussion,” said Wilson in an interview on Sept. 6. “(So far) it’s just been no, no, no, no.”

Don Sinclair of the Council countered that the demands are unworkable. He said the Council’s current offer, which includes a 7.5 per cent pay increase over four years, is a square deal.

“We think there’s a good offer on the table,” he said, adding they recently ratified a similar agreement with college support staff.

OPSEU’s demand for senates made up of faculty to make academic decisions isn’t a negotiable issue, he said, because it because it’s an administration issue, not a faculty issue.

“Administration of the college is not so much a term of employment,” he said.

Negotiations will resume on Sept. 18.

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