Earlier today, the Ontario College Faculty announced that unless the College Employer Council (CEC) would agree to voluntary binding interest arbitration, they would initiate a strike this Friday, March 18 at 12:01 a.m.
We have already received immediate feedback on this situation, with students asking:
But why this sudden announcement? Hasn't Work-to-Rule been working? What will happen on Friday?
To answer these questions, we need to look back before the Labour Action vote last December.
At the end of negotiations in Dec 2021, CEC had two tools available to escalate towards a collective agreement they considered to be reasonable: Imposition or Lock-Out.
Here's a quick recap:
Imposition is the ability of employer (eg College Employer) to impose unilateral terms and conditions of employment on employees, rather than through negotiating a settlement.
A Lock-Out is when an employer (eg College Employer) closes a workplace or refuses to employ its employees (eg College Faculty) with the aim to compel the employees to accept conditions the Employer wants.
Since November 2021, the CEC has taken a strict stance that it will not negotiate or return to the negotiating table. The aim with this strategy is simple: avoid negotiations with the aim towards escalating, whereby they will be able to eventually Impose terms on the Faculty without the need to compromise.
Conversely, the OPSEU has taken an opposing stance, calling for both sides to agree to Voluntary Binding Interest Arbitration. As a quick recap, Interest Arbitration is when a neutral third-party Arbitrator is brought in, who has the authority to assemble a new collective agreement, using offers from both sides, that is legally binding.
The reason for the Faculty's sudden Strike Deadline announcement seems to be in response to perceived threats by CEC. In recent days, CEC seems to have escalated talk and seemingly made moves towards issuing a Lock-Out across the province in the Summer 2022 term. So while Work-to-Rule has been successful at putting pressure only the Employer, it seems that CEC's intensified moves have given OPSEU no other option than to immediately issue an ultimatum: accept Interest Arbitration or we will go on immediate strike.
Based on the CEC's issued reply, it seems unlikely they will agree to binding arbitration currently, and that the College system will likely launch a picketed Strike across Ontario College campuses.
How do we fix this situation?
We need to keep in mind: Binding Arbitration is inevitable.
It was mandated by the Province back in 2017 to resolve the crisis, by forcing both sides back to the table and having a neutral Arbitrator issue a new binding agreement.
It now comes down to CSA and other leading college associations to call on the Province to intervene, and mandate Binding Arbitration. Tomorrow, CSA will be issuing an Open Letter, calling on Minister of Colleges & Universities, Jill Dunlop, to intervene and mandate both sides enter binding arbitration.
An immediate agreement to binding arbitration is the best solution (and least disruptive) for Ontario's college students.