Faculty Strike Questions (Q & A)
1. Will there be a strike?
No one can say for sure whether or not there will be a strike. Three out of four times since the 1970’s strike votes have resulted in settlements without a strike. In 2004, settlement was reached on the eve of a strike. In 2006, there was a strike over workload issues.
2. How long will a strike last?
There have been three strikes – October 1984, October 1989, and March 2006. All three lasted about 3 weeks. No one can say for sure how long a strike will last. The Colleges and their bargaining team chair have announced that colleges are making plans to make up for lost teaching weeks should there be a strike. It is extremely difficult to believe that the colleges or the provincial government would allow a labour dispute to cause nearly 250,000 college students to lose their year.
4. What will it take to get a settlement? And will Faculty get a settlement?
The critical issues are workload and the implementation of the 2009 Workload Task Force Report. The colleges have alleged that the union is seeking a 2 teaching hour reduction per week. THERE IS NO SUCH DEMAND. Neither is there any demand that would lead to this result. Other issues exist but are less contentious and should be resolvable. Those are in compensation and gains for partial-load teachers.
The Task Force Report was unanimously agreed to in March 2009. Nonetheless, the Colleges negotiators have refused to accept several of the key recommendations. The union has accepted all the recommendations.
The assertions of the colleges regarding “affordability” are bargaining rhetoric not grounded in the available data. The real costs of the union demands are well within the colleges funding mandate. The factors blocking a settlement are not fiscal but issues of academic control.
The union proposals are reasonable, common in many other post-secondary systems including community colleges, cost-neutral, and most importantly of all, recommended by a Task Force chaired by an independent observer who studied our workload system in depth.
Settlement depends on the Colleges’ willingness to live up to the unanimous Task Force Report findings and recommendations.
5. When can faculty expect a vote on the offer?
The Colleges can take a vote on their offer at any time. The union has invited them to do so on more than one occasion.
The union will conduct a ratification vote when it believes that the offer will be acceptable to the membership.
Several Colleges have announced that day programs will NOT continue during a strike or lockout.
9. Can Faculty picket and teach without disadvantaging students?
In the event of a strike, the faculty would be expected to honour the picket line and this includes ending activity such as that described. Should the employee do this work on their own, they would not be paid by the college and they would not receive strike pay. They would be considered “strikebreakers” in accordance with the OPSEU policy. Strikebreaking only prolongs a strike and creates unhealthy and unwelcome labour and interpersonal relations.
10. What will happen if there are both full-time faculty and part-timers in a program and management decides to keep the program open even if full-time faculty go on strike?
This is a provincial action. If Faculty go on strike, it will affect all colleges in Ontario. There are hundreds of programs, some taught predominantly by part-time teachers, others by full-time teachers. Many programs must meet provincial, industrial or university requirements and standards. While it is true some courses could be taught successfully by part-timers, the majority of college programs cannot meet all the requirements to graduate their students. In the past, students did not show up if they could not get their full curriculum.
Significant gains in quality have come because faculty took action, including strike votes and even strikes when necessary. This is no different. Colleges today deliver better quality because of the workload formula which was won though a strike in 1984 and a “yes” vote without a strike in the very next round of bargaining.
The 2009 Task Force Report made recommendations to maintain and enhance quality. That is what this is all about.
Current students may not feel that diminished quality, but future students will be affected. Faculty need to think hard about whether they are prepared to fight this or sanction the destruction of quality.
Management can prevent a strike by bargaining in good faith. It is unfair to put the entire burden of responsibility on faculty.
If there is a strike, all bargaining unit members, including faculty who are coordinators, will be on strike.
14. We have a lot of second career students and they are asking our faculty to not go on strike because they will not be able to support their families. Faculty may feel obliged not to strike. What will happen to them if they continue to work?
Nearly all students are concerned about the effect of a strike on their studies. No student has lost their year in the past due to strike action at the colleges. If a faculty member continues to teach during a strike it is strikebreaking. There are sanctions which OPSEU may impose. Those are defined in answer to another question.
Strikebreaking will prolong the strike and disadvantage faculty and students.
15. If faculty are on strike can they continue to work with students on the web-based system? What about non-teaching work?
If Faculty are on strike all faculty work ceases until the resumption of work. Doing work on-line or in any other way, whether that is teaching or other duties, is strike breaking.
If a strike is necessary, all faculty work ceases. To continue to teach during a strike is strike breaking. The College Collective Bargaining Act sets the conditions for faculty who ask to work during a strike. The OPSEU constitution states that all earnings from the employer during a strike become union dues payable
18. What is the official position on teachers having contact with students during the strike period?
Contact with students is fine if it is limited to matters unrelated to your courses or the student’s academic performance, or counseling. Updates on bargaining are perfectly fine during any strike. If there is a strike, faculty will not be working, they will be on strike.
19. I heard a Faculty member talking to a group of students. He told them that some faculty at the College plan to continue to teach if there is a strike. Is OPSEU going to make a statement about crossing the picket line?
Definitely. OPSEU will advise faculty of the OPSEU policy on strikebreaking.
Union dues for persons working a struck employer are 100% of earnings. Strikebreakers risk being expelled from union membership.
Crossing the line will only prolong a strike. The majority of faculty have voted and spoken. No one is obliged to take part in any strike duties, but to violate the will and the wishes of the majority of voters is anti-democratic.
22. I heard that the earliest we would go on strike is Feb 15th. Why would we start a strike on Family Day? Wouldn’t the college be glad not to have to pay us?
A strike date has not been scheduled. February 15 is not an option: the union would never begin a strike on a statutory holiday. February 15 has been suggested by management at some colleges.
23. Why would we go on strike during study week when many faculty have no classes?
Study week varies from college to college, as early as the week of February 15 and as late as the week of March 15. A strike date has not been set, but should it be necessary to set a date, the union will give consideration to all the variables.
25. What happens to someone like me, who is retiring within the next five years if we strike? Who tops up–the college or the union for the part of the pension payment that is not mine?
Pension is calculated on your best 60 months of earnings, usually your last five years. The pension plans allow employees to make up – “buy back” – for lost earnings due to a strike or lockout. Top ups typically are the responsibility of the faculty member. Several of the local unions have a fund to top up pension contributions by paying the employer’s 50% share. The buy-back must be made before retirement.
There is no strike date set and the desire of the faculty bargaining team is to reach a negotiated settlement.
There have been 3 strikes in the past, October 84, October 89, and March 2006. Each lasted about 3 weeks. While no one can predict the future with absolute certainty, it is extremely difficult to see how the colleges or the Minister could justify allowing nearly 250,000 students to lose their entire year.
35. Why don’t we have ONE college go on strike and pay the faculty their full salaries by getting money from OPSEU and the colleges that are still open?
Should it be necessary to go on strike, all possible scenarios will be considered so as not to disadvantage one faculty member at the expense of advantaging others. The purpose of a strike is to get to a resolution. For that reason, it is best to put as much pressure on the employer and the government as possible.