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College faculty ratification vote a surprisingly low 61 per cent

By: 
Gracie Graham

October 15, 2014

Following a “no” vote campaign that saw eleven out twenty-four college locals, members of OPSEU, call to turn down a contract recommended by the bargaining team and employer, the final vote was a very low 61 percent. Eight colleges voted against the deal and two other colleges ratified the deal at less than 61 percent.
 
The contract contains no apparent major concessions and even includes a miniscule but unexpected wage increase. Given the promises by the Wynne Liberals of no wage increases for public sector workers, many viewed this contract at first glance to be a reprieve from austerity. But a major demand in this round of bargaining was job protection and the creation of full-time jobs instead of precarious contracts. Currently, a whopping 75 per cent of college faculty are non-full-time, contract workers.
 
The deal contains language changes that give the colleges more opportunities to claim the need to hire faculty on contract for “economic” reasons. It also includes a moratorium on grieving staffing decisions for the life of the contract. Both of these concessions will make it easier for the colleges to continue to create precarious jobs and cut full-time positions.
 
The unprecedented low ratification rate followed a year long pre-bargaining campaign to raise the issues of increasing precarious contract work instead of full-time jobs, the proliferation of privatization schemes and the erosion of academic freedom—all occurring as student enrolment increases.
 
Without this internal education campaign this contract could have easily been viewed as better than expected and passed with a large majority. This did not happen. Although it did pass, the fact that a widely supported “no” campaign pushed the ratification vote to such a low level has implications for the future. The colleges can claim no clear mandate for continuing the status quo. It is also gives the college locals some momentum to continue to expose the college agenda as clearly not supporting good jobs and quality public education.
 
This result should be also be a message to public sector workers and their union leaders going in bargaining with Wynne’s Liberal, like OPSEU members in the Ontario Public Service (OPS), that if we want to start pushing back against the erosion of good jobs and services we have to do more than sit at the bargaining table and lobby politicians.

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