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Ontario College strike arbitrator rules in favour of faculty, union says

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Loyalist College was one of 24 colleges in Ontario with a picket line. Roughly 12,000 faculty and support staff were on strike for five weeks. Photo By Lindsey Harren

By Lindsey Harren [2]

BELLEVILLE– A new Ontario colleges’ deal was finalized through arbitration Wednesday, including a salary increase for faculty, more job security for partial-load teachers, and academic freedom.

After three days of negotiations, arbitrator William Kaplan, who was appointed by the Ontario government after it introduced back to work legislation on Nov. 19, released his decision. [3]

The four year agreement is between the Ontario College Employer Council and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

The union issued a statement [4] Wednesday afternoon highlighting what the arbitrator added to the collective agreement.

Faculty will receive a 7.75 per cent wage increase, which will go up about two percent each year over the contract. Kaplan also announced that faculty members will receive additional money for extra work they did to adjust the semester once the strike ended. This will amount to $900 for full time, and $450 for partial-load faculty.

Students will now receive the same duration of time for open office hours with a teacher, whether they are studying online or at school, the decision states.

The arbitrator has included additional statements that reaffirm professors’ right to take part in the logistics of student success, which acknowledged one of the critical issues around academic freedom.

“Every faculty member is able to exercise academic freedom in the performance of his/her duties. Academic freedom at the College includes the right to inquire about, investigate, pursue, teach and speak freely about academic issues without fear of impairment to position or other reprisal,” said the report.

The revised agreement will also protect faculty from being fired or penalized if they speak out about academic issues.

The union issued a statement shortly after the decision was released on Wednesday. In it, the union said that students could have been back in the classroom sooner.

“With any reasonable amount of cooperation from the colleges, there would never have been a strike, students would not have had to worry about losing their semester, and faculty would never have lost five weeks’ pay,” said J.P Hornick, chair of the OPSEU College bargaining team, in a statement.

OPSEU president Warren Thomas is putting the blame on the government. He said in a release that the negotiations between the two parties started in July, and the government had time to intervene to help the process.

QNet News contacted the College Employer Council office and did not receive a response.

In a statement, Loyalist College president Ann Marie Vaughan said that they are committed to helping students succeed, and appreciates the efforts made by faculty and staff to focus on students.

“Ontario Colleges are pleased with the arbitrator’s award, which preserves colleges’ collaborative approach to academic planning and decision making. It maintains consistency of academic content in the classroom and our ability to be responsive to local economic needs in a timely and flexible way, both of which are core to the mandate of Ontario colleges,” said Vaughan.

The atmosphere has been professional and collegial at the school, said Craig Jackman, communication member for OPSEU Local 420.

Jackman who is also a Loyalist College professor for radio broadcasting and journalism said that from reading the executive summary the report sees the side of the union.

“I would say we are pleased that the arbitrator saw our side of the argument, but I am disappointed that it had to get to this point. I am disappointed that this couldn’t have been negotiated through July and August to get this settled before the strike,” he said.

Jackman added that the arbitrator’s decision is a “strong endorsement of what the union went on strike for.”

“I think the overall agreement sees our side of the most issues. I would have liked to have seen the arbitrator address the full times versus part-time compliment,” said Jackman.

The strike ended Nov. 19 after the province stepped in with back to work legislation.

Roughly 3,000 students at Loyalist College missed five weeks of school while faculty walked the picket line. Over 12,000 professors, librarians and support staff were on strike at Ontario’s 24 colleges.

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