Confederation College president Jim Madder is optimistic. He's hopeful staff and students can soon get back to work, after talks over the weekend came close to a resolution.
"Well, you know, there were thorough negotiations from last Thursday up to this morning. Everything was agreed to -- all of the elements outstanding had solutions both sides agreed to -- except for one. That was academic freedom. The College Employers Council has gone to the Ontario Labour Relations Board and asked for faculty to vote on that offer," Madder said this afternoon.
The strike between Ontario colleges and their academic staff is in its fourth week. While the union has demanded changes to job security and how the colleges are run, management has said the union's demands are too expensive and staff are asking for too much control.
"What is in the offer actually outlines a fair bit," continued Madder, noting a letter is available online with details, along with the latest offer from the colleges.
On the issue of academic freedom, an open letter from the council says it was ready to ensure every college would have an academic freedom policy that recognizes "the right to enquire about, investigate, pursue and speak freely about academic issues without fear of impairment to position or other reprisal."
The council noted their offer also includes:
- 7.75 per cent salary increase over four years
- New full-time faculty salary maximum of $115,378
- New partial-load maximum of $154.26 / hr.
- Increased partial-load salaries by doubling the speed of progress through the salary grid
- Improved benefits
Across the province, there are about 12,000 college staff involved. They're represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).
“Rather than continue to bargain, the colleges have called a vote that -- in itself -- could easily keep faculty and students out of their classrooms for another two weeks,” said J.P. Hornick, chair of the faculty bargaining team of the union.
“Today, our better plan is this: If the colleges come to the table now and bargain a settlement that our team can recommend, we can have faculty back in the classrooms tomorrow and hold the ratification vote after,” Hornick continued.
In the district, Confederation College says they have about 200 students registered, along with 55 to 65 staff, but only three of those staff would be members of the striking union.
No students have ever lost their year in Ontario, due to a strike.
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