Students walk the hallways of Lambton College in Sarnia, ON.
Credits: QMI AGENCY
A so-called "no-board" was filed late last week with Ontario's Labour Ministry after conciliation talks failed indicating the two sides are too far apart to reach agreement.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and the College Employer Council, which represents the community colleges, began conciliation after talks stalled in July. The union represents 10,000 college faculty.
"With filing for this no-board report, what that means is they could lock us out or impose a contract on us," said Baiba Butkus, president of OPSEU Local 125 at Sarnia's Lambton College.
A strike could begin as early as Sept. 15 if the union goes ahead with a Sept. 10 strike vote.
The colleges have urged OPSEU to cancel the Sept. 10 strike vote and return to bargaining.
Sonia Del Missier, chair of the colleges' bargaining team, said in a news release late last week the union won't accept the colleges' offer that is more generous than the deal Ontario's Liberal government has set out for school teachers.
"We are offering a two-year wage freeze that preserves maximum salaries at $102,186, but we are not asking for any concessions from faculty," she said.
The colleges and the union remain far apart on major issues.
The existing contract expires Aug. 31.
Del Missier cautioned a strike vote will do little to help the situation. "(It) won't make the union's demands more affordable and it won't get the colleges any more money,"
The push by colleges for a wage freeze comes as the cash-strapped Ontario government, battling a $15-billion budget deficit, tries to extract the same austerity from teachers returning to work next month in elementary and high schools.
The government also wants to stall the movement of teachers up salary grids and scrap the last vestiges of a system that still allows some to bank unused sick time.
After the province's two largest teacher unions balked, and to keep scheduled movements up salary grips from kicking in Sept. 1, Premier Dalton McGuinty moved to recall the legislature early from its summer break to impose a deal on hold-out teacher unions.