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‘No’ vote campaign on college faculty contract is gaining steam

Gracie Graham

September 22, 2014

College faculty, members of OPSEU, will vote on a contract deal September 23. Although the deal is recommended by the bargaining team, to date eleven locals out of twenty-four colleges across Ontario are calling for a “No’ vote. This is a first in the history of college faculty bargaining and an indication that the status quo is no longer satisfactory.
On the face of it, the deal appears better than was anticipated. After two years of wage freezes, there are very small wage increases in each year of the contract. A few small changes, such as reducing the probationary period for full time hires from two years to one, are very welcome.
Precarious post-secondary jobs
But, one of the main demands of the faculty is more job security, especially for part-time contract faculty. Changes to language in the agreement give the colleges more opportunity to deny full-time hires and increase workload. On top of that, the deal includes a moratorium on staffing grievance for the life of the contract. This will hamstring the union’s ability to defend full-time jobs in the colleges. Although other major concessions came off the table during the course of bargaining, what is left is unacceptable to many. For this reason, local union leaderships are calling for members to vote No.
Similar to the situation in universities both in Canada and the US, there has been a huge increase in the number of faculty who are working on part-time contracts with no job protection. The percentage in the college has reached almost three part-time to every full-time position. At the same time student enrolment in colleges has gone up steadily.
Arming union members with the facts
In the lead-up to the current round of bargaining, there was a concerted effort made by the union to raise the issues around part-time faculty as well as issues related to academic freedom. The union produced a comprehensive report that exposed the reality of increasing student enrolment, decreasing full-time faculty and increasing highly paid administrators. It also exposed the neoliberal agenda and the push toward privatization including the proliferation of degree granting arrangement with private career colleges and much grander projects.
The report highlights a mandate to globalize college operations in terms of student recruitment and for-profit foreign partnerships, creation of a competitive domestic environment between colleges and universities, mass layoffs of full time faculty and reliance on part time workers, and increasing student tuition and corporate sponsorship as percentages of total college operating revenues. Most recently, changes to the colleges have included a massive push to expand online course delivery, a rapid increase in numbers of administration, and in administration salaries, and a mandate to “differentiate” the college sector to avoid “program duplication.”
This internal education campaign has been successful not only to provide information to faculty but to expose the reality that the college administration is increasing focusing on privatization schemes that no longer prioritze the delivery of quality public education. Whatever the outcome, the fact that the No campaign has been embraced by almost half the college locals is evidence that the strategy of internal education is successful and giving confidence to a layer of faculty ready to act and call for a NO vote.
College locals calling for a NO vote to date: Algonquin, George Brown, Mohawk, Niagara, Centennial, Georgian, Humber, St. Clair, Cambrian, Sir Sandford Fleming, Sault.

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