- QNetNews.ca - http://www.qnetnews.ca -

Back-to-work legislation at colleges faces challenge

By John Bronn [1]

BELLEVILLE – The back-to-work legislation that halted a faculty strike at Ontario colleges last fall is being challenged.

The challenge comes from the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents college faculty. The union claims that the provincial government’s back-to-work legislation violated teachers’ rights of association under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [2].

Eric Bauer, a professor at Loyalist College and president of the union local, says the challenge will not lead to another strike.

“There’s clear evidence that charter challenges are a long game, not a short game,” Bauer told QNet News. “This will likely be in the court system for one year, two years or maybe even three. If it goes through, we would go back to where we left off – that being at the (bargaining) table, not on the picket line.”

The charter challenge “is just to say we were in a legal position to strike,” he said. “We were still in negotiations. We had a vote on a forced offer from the (College Employer Council) and the vote was overwhelmingly to reject – at which point the Liberal government intervened and scripted legislation that compelled us to go back to work.

“As union members, we were in a position to negotiate a proper agreement with the employer council. That was taken away by back-to-work legislation when we were in a position to be legally in a work stoppage, and that can’t go unchallenged. It’s an undermining of union rights.”

The challenge is a legal tactic, and students do not need to worry about another upset to their schooling in the current academic year, Bauer said.