It is back to the bargaining table for Ontario colleges and the union representing 12,000 striking faculty as week three of the strike continues and pressure mounts to get a deal done.
A provincially appointed mediator asked the parties to return to the bargaining table today in a strike that is affecting more than 300,000 students across the province.
Particularly at risk right now are the students enrolled in apprenticeships and other programs where they must earn enough in-class hours to qualify for upcoming certification exams.
Minister of advanced education and skills development Deb Matthews called the move to the bargaining table good news and added that “this is an important step forward. But I’m going to continue to urge both parties to actually negotiate an agreement. Students should be back in the classroom. They should be back in the classroom as quickly as possible.”
The College Employer Council, which represents the province’s 24 community colleges, said it asked the mediator to resume talks.
When talks broke off, the two sides were miles apart….about $250 million dollars apart on wages and staffing issues. The colleges were offering 7.75 per cent over four years, and the union was looking to have half of all jobs to be full-time in order to combat a growing reliance on contract faculty. (full-time faculty represent one-third of teachers. But when measured by teaching hours, they represent about half.)
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union was also seeking greater academic freedom for its college faculty members, who teach full-time or have a partial load of between seven and 12 hours a week.
Premier Kathleen Wynne said “it is a great concern of mine that students not lose their term, that they be able to complete the work for this term so that they can move on, whether it’s onto the next term or out into the work world. I am very encouraged that the parties are getting back to the table, and I would hope that they will move expeditiously to get an agreement, so that those students can get back into the class as soon as possible.”
Locally at Niagara College, campuses and non-academic services remain open as well as residences. For more information click the link: www.niagaracollege.ca
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